THE ETHNIC SURVIVAL OF THE TENETEHARA INDIANS
OF MARANHAO, BRAZIL
MERCIO PEREIRA GOMES
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Copyright. By Mercio Perelra Gomes
This dissertation is dedicated
to the memory of Eduardo Gustavo Eneas Galvao (1921-1976)
Ethnographers of the Tenetehara who have understood the
plight of the Indian and the plight of the caboclo as
problems of humankind.
The Lowland South American Program has sponsored my graduate
studies since I came to the University of Florida in the Fall of 1974.
It also provided me with grants for travel and fieldwork in Brazil from
June to December, 1975, and for the typing, editing and copying of this
dissertation. I am most thankful to this Program and to its organizers,
Drs. Charles Wagley, Paul Doughty, and William Carter.
I cannot count the many other ways in which Dr. Charles Wagley has
helped me. He has been a source of intellectual inspiration and challenge,
of understanding and counsel. He and hi,s wife, Mrs. Cecilia Roxo Wagley
have extended their warm friendship to my family and me. He has allowed
me to read his and Dr. Eduardo Galvao's unpublished field notes of their
visit to the Tenetehara in 1941-1945. He has done extensive editing
and some important revision of this dissertation.
I want to thank the other members of my committee, Drs. Maxine
Margolis, Anthony Oliver-Smith, Paul Doughty, and Terry McCoy for their
comments and editorial revisions of an early draft of this dissertation.
I am thankful to Pride Hooper who careful ly edited the complete last
draft of this dissertation. She and the members of my committee performed
a service to me for which I am immensely grateful. Of course, the
stylistic and theoretical shortcomings of this dissertation are my own
In addition I want to thank Mrs. Vivian Nolan, secretary of the
Center for Latin American Studies, and Mrs. Lydia Deakin, of the
Department of Anthropology for their kind help in lending their resources
and knowledge of the University of Florida bureaucracy. I am grateful
to Arlene Kelly for typing portions of an early draft, and particularly
to Debbie Breedlove for typing the final copy of this dissertation.
My wife Ann Elizabeth Baldwin-Gomes helped me during the first
crucial months of fieldwork. She prepared the three maps presented here
and also helped with suggestions for revisions of early drafts of this
I would like to thank the following people and institutions in
Brazil: Dr. Carlos Moreira Neto, of the Museu do Indio, Rio de Janeiro,
who provided me with bibliographical and historical material which other-
wise I would not have been able to obtain. The National Foundation for
the Indian (FUNAI), for allowing me to live among the Tenetehara and
to visit the Urubu-Kaapor and the recently contacted Guaja Indians.
Deyse Lobao, Joao Moreira, Francisco Mourao, Jose Carlos Meireles,
Domingos Pereira, Francisco Renno, all employees of FUNAI in Sao Luis,
for their help in various stages of field work. The Curia Custodial
of the Igreja de Sao Carmo in Sao Luis, and its secretary. Father
Oswaldo, for letting me read an important part of their archive on the
Alto Alegre Mission of 1895-1901. Dr. and Mrs. Carl Harrison, of the
Summer Institute of Linguistics, for their help when I contracted
malaria near their village and for sharing their experiences among the
Tenetehara. Dona Maria Dolores Maia, who has been involved with the
Tenetehara as a teacher since 1941, for her kindness and help while I
was in Grajau. Raimundo Viana, also of Grajau, a former employee of the
Servigo de Protegao aos Indies , for letting me use his personal files
in addition to providing me with important personal information on the
history of local Brazilian-Indian relations.
Finally I want to thank the Tenetehara Indians, particularly Gentil,
Antonio Guajajara, Joaquinzinho , Alderico, Virgolino and his family,
Jose Lopes, and the Brazilians Maria Oliveira and Francisco de Assis who
are married to Tenetehara, for their help, tolerance, and candor.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES ' ' , '
LIST OF FIGURES ^
CHAPTER I , .
The Field Situation I
The Tenetehara in the Modern World ]9
Indians and Brazilians ig
Indians and FUNAI 26
Indians and the New Economic Developments 30
Theoretical Orientation 34
Formation of Inter-Ethnic Relations 53
The Phase of Slavery: 1613-1653 58
Serfdom Phase: 1653-1755 74
CHAPTER V , ■
Freedom and the Rise of Patron-Client Relationships 85 ^
Freedom and Transitional Contact: 1755-1840 86
Indians and the Economic Frontiers 93
The Period of Patron-Client Relationships: ' 1840-1910 95
The Provinical Indian Policy System: 1840-1889 97
The Alto Alegre Incident and the Grajau-Barro do
Corda Region ]09
The Gurupi and Pindare Regions 121
The Twentieth Century and the Role of the SPI/FUNAI 126 '
The Mediating Role of the SPI/FUNAI . 130 ,
•> CHAPTER VII .
Tenetehara Economic System: An Overview 173
Production Forces " •]77
Production Relations • 13Q
Trade Economies . . -jg^
Aboriginal Tenetehara Economy 187
General Changes in the Aboriginal Tenetehara Economic
System . igi
CHAPTER VIII ■
Trade Economy Through Patron-Client Relations 195
Trade Economy in the Gurupi River Region 198
Trade Economies of the Pindare Region 202
Trade Economies in the Grajau Region ■ 223
CHAPTER IX • .
Tenetehara Economic System: Recent Developments 240
Tenetehara Internal Economy 2B2
Production Forces 252
Production Relations 257
, CHAPTER X
GLOSSARY , 280
• BIBLIOGRAPHY . 285
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 295
LIST OF TABLES
Tenetehara Reservations, Indian Posts, and Population
Table 2 ■
Infant Mortality Rate of Tenetehara
Trade Value of Tenetehara Production in 1862
Tenetehara Sales in 1936
Prices of Tenetehara Products, 1936-1945
Prices of Brazilian goods sold to the Tenetehara, 1941-1942,
1 945 '
Table 7 .
Trade Balance of Market Value of Tenetehara Transactions
Receipts of Purchase and Sale of Lumber, April 1955
Local Price Offers for Indian Products in 1954
Prices obtained by the Grajau Agent
LIST OF FIGURES
Indian Groups in Colonial Times
Tenetehara Migrations in the Nineteenth Century
Hierarchical Levels of Economic Analysis
Network of Traders in the Pindare Region
Network of Settlements and Village Areas
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE ETHNIC SURVIVAL OF THE TENETEHARA INDIANS
OF MARANHAO, BRAZIL
Mercio Pereira Gomes
Chairman: Charles Wagley
Major Department: Anthropology
This is a study of the ethnic survival of the Tenetehara Indians
of the State of Maranhao, Brazil. The Tenetehara are presently one of
the largest Indian groups in Brazil, comprising a total population of
about 4,300 people. There are over 40 Tenetehara villages located in
five reservation areas in the State of Maranhao. All of these areas
have recently suffered invasions of Brazilian landless peasants. This,
along with the aggressive ' interests of local landowners, has caused a
great deal of anxiety on the part of the Tenetehara. They have been
helped by the National Foundation for the Indian (FUNAI) in combating
this threat to their lands, but the situation is still to be legally
solved. In 1975, there was some friction between the Tenetehara and
Brazilian peasants and landowners concerning the boundaries of Tenetehara
lands and the expulsion of the peasants from these lands. The ownership
of land looms as the greatest problem for the continuing existence of
the Tenetehara as well as other Indian groups.
This dissertation focuses on the Tenetehara mode of production, of
which the land question is but one basic factor. The Tenetehara mode of
production is analyzed as an important element for the continuing existence
of the Tenetehara ethnic group. This analysis is carried out in both
historical and structural terms. The Tenetehara have been in contact
with Western civilization for over 350 years. They have suffered but
successfully survived the impact of Western diseases, the processes
of predation, enslavement, serfdom, and the general dominance of the
forming Brazilian society. They have modified their society and culture
in order to survive this impact, but in this they have not simply stood
as passive recipients. They have also reacted to this impact and in
the process they have played a part in shaping the kind of contact
relationship they have had with the Brazilian society.
This contact relationship has taken place because of the mutual
need of Brazilians and Tenetehara to obtain goods from each other. In
this process the Tenetehara have modified their mode of production, and .
consequently their society and culture in general, to meet the market
demands for their goods. However, they have continued, with some excep-
tions, to produce for internal consumption, thus keeping the economic
basis upon which their ethnic autonomy rests. The process of accultur-
ation and loss of ethnic identification has taken place when the condi-
tions for the continuation of production for internal consumption were
superseded by the conditions for production for trade and by the rapid
increase of the Brazilian population in the area.
The Tenetehara have survived, and indeed have increased their '
population since aboriginal times, becyase they have been able to main-
tain a distinct mode of production apart from that of the Brazilian
society. The future of the Tenetehara lies in continuing this strategy,
a possibility which poses new problems in view of the recent develop-
ments of the rural Maranhao society.
THE FIELD SITUATION
"Those people are not real Indians! Indians are like the Canella!"
This statement was made to me by the commissioner ( delegado ) of the
Sixth Regional Office of the Rinda^ Nacio^ or
National Foundation for the Indian) in Sa~o Luis, state of Maranhao. He
was referring to the Tenetehara Indians who are under his jurisdiction.
The Tenetehara Indians are known in the region as Guajajara, a Tupi
word which means "owner of the feathered head ornament" ( wazai-zara in
the Tenetehara language). In the state of Par^ where there used to be
two or three thousand Tenetehara in the nineteenth century (they now
number less than 100 people) they are known as Tembe, also a Tupi word
meaning "lower-1 ip"-probably from a kind of lip plug which they formerly
lised. But the Tenetehara call themselves by this name which, according
to Dr. Carl Harrison (personal communication), means "we are the true
people" ( ten-ete-hara ).
Why the Tenetehara, in contrast to the Canella, are not "real
Indians" was further explained to me by the commissioner. "They are
almost civilized," he said, "well acculturated," in short, "they live
just like our caboclos" (Brazilian backwoodsmen). I was told that the
Tenetehara spoke fairly good Portuguese, dressed in Brazilian style,
and had few "primitive" customs left. They could not even manufacture
decent bows and arrows, and their handicraft goods, like necklaces broke
easily because they used cheap mass-produced cotton string instead of
the natural fibers that the Canella used.
Being "well accul turated" or leading a life in the manner of the
caboclos are more or less synonymous statements, and they had been used
to categorize the Tenetehara by two or three anthropologists with whom
I had discussed my project in Brazil. For those anthropologists such
statements implied that I was probably wasting my time by going to a
field situation in which I would not be able to procure much new data
on a society whose culture had already been described (Wagley and Galvao
1949) and was at any rate very " caboclizado " (caboclo-1 ike) .
For the commissioner, the assumption that the Tenetehara were
caboclizado colored his judgments and feelings about the Tenetehara
as his charges. He described them as "troublemakers" ( encrengueiros ) ,
very unyielding and disobedient. They no longer shared things with one
another, and were generally not to be trusted as they themselves trusted,
no one, not even their own people and relatives. They were neither
Indians nor "civilized" pfeople; they were a mixed breed, sort of cultural
mestizos, which in the eyes of the commissioner made them, to put it
mildly, a tough lot to administer.
Along with this subjective information I procured some more objective
data while still in Sao Lufs. According to a FUNAI census, the Tenetehara
could now be numbered at some 4,300 people (excluding the Tembe of Para
state) living in a vast area that ranged from the municfpios (counties)
of Moncao and Pindare-Mirim in Northern Maranhao, south through the
municipfos of Amarante, Grajau, and Barra do Corda. There were now
eight Indian Posts ( postos indigenas ) in these areas exclusively to take
care of the Tenetehara. The number of Tenetehara villages had been
Ft gure 1 .
counted in 1975 at approximately 40, which would give us an average of
no people per vi llage.
This was welcome news for me as I had come to reexamine the
Tenetehara some 34 years after Charles Wagley, Eduardo Galvao, Nelson
Teixeira, and Rubens Meanda first visited the Tenetehara of the Pindare
and lower Zutiua Rivers (cf. Wagley and Galvao 1949; 1961). In view
of the prediction in their book that "It is only a question of a generation
or so until the Tenetehara become peasants and Brazilians," (1949 edition,
page 183) I was frankly expecting a much smaller population, if indeed
a separate ethnic group at all!
As I spent more time in the offices of FUNAI in Sao Luis more
disturbing news was presented to me. In all the areas where the Tenetehara
lived they were having disputes over land with Brazilian landowners and
peasants. By law, land disputes are to be mediated by FUNAI as the
legal guardian of Indian lands, but in some areas disputes were
attaining proportions of potential armed conflict between the Tenetehara
and the peasants or the landowners, as the case might be. Officials of
FUNAI in SSo Luis were rather nervous about the recent developments of
land disputes in the Indian Post areas of Bacurizinho, Anjico Torto,
and Pindare. The commissioner was busily sending cables to FUNAI head-
quarters in Brasilia, urging them to take more decisive and authoritative i
action to bring about an end to these problems. FUNAI was also in perma- '
nent contact with the Federal Police in Sao Lufs in the eventuality of
an armed conflict between Tenetehara and Brazilians. There was fear of
genocfda! warfare on the part of the peasants, and there was fear of |
Tenetehara guerilla warfare in alliance with the Ge speaking Krikati and
Gaviao Indians, as was rumored to have happened in the Anjico Torto area.
The intervention of the Federal Police would be called upon in case of
aggression from stubborn Brazilian peasants who refused to leave Tenetehara
land or Tenetehara who decided to resolve the matter on their own and
expel the peasants. The job of the Federal Police would be to evacuate
the invaders and keep them from getting in trouble.
In the meantime, the commissioner talked one day with a Tenetehara
capitao (officially appointed headman), the next with a disgruntled
landowner or peasant who claimed to have a stake in the supposed Tene-
tehara land. Each disputant would present his claims with a certain
amount of deference due a high official of the government, and with a
high amount of defensi veness and assurance of the righteousness of his
claim. The Brazilians often complained of the Tenetehara doing some
■mischief to their cattle or crops. In many of these cases, the Brazilians
seemed to be gaining the commissioner's conviction that they were correct
in their claim as they often were in possession of a land title duly
certified and notorized in the cartorios (record offices) of the municipio
where the disputed land was located. And the Tenetehara most often
had only their word that some years back an SPI ( Service de Protecao
aos Indios -Indian Protection Service, the government agency that preceded
FUNAI until late 1967) official had demarcated their land and set the
limits with the concurrence of all the neighboring parties in question.
The commissioner himself had copies of these land limitation settlements
from SPI times but there was some doubt as to proper limits due to
inexact legal descriptions used in the land settlements. Furthermore,
as he had assumed his post in Sao Lufs just six months previously, and
therefore knew neither the Tenetehara nor their lands to an intimate
degree, he was rather prone to believe that the Tenetehara were trying to
get the better of him. In one case where he had met with a large number
of Tenetehara assembled at an Indian Post to discuss land limits, he
had come out much impressed by the accuity of the Indians' knowledge
of the limits to lands which had been granted to them twenty or more
years back; on the other hand, he was unsure of their veracity. As a
former SPI Indian agent used to announce publicly, "If it were by the
Indians' account every piece of land in the state of Maranhao would
belong to them. "
Amidst the hustle and bustle of some 20 employees in the small
offices of FUNAI, I met a young woman who was in charge of the education
program for the Indians of Maranhao. She was the one who showed me the
statistics on Indian populations, maps of the Indian areas, and she took
her time to let me know that she was very happy that I had come to study
the Tenetehara. The Tenetehara, she told me, were a great, friendly
people, always amusing themselves with jokes, hard working, somewhat '
"disorganized," but intelligent and cunning, no one's fool; and they
deserved to have an anthropologist come and live with them to know more
about them--as the Canella have had for many years now. Furthermore, she
told me that the Tenetehara were misunderstood by everyone who came in
contact with them, including the high officials of FUNAI. Consequently
the Tenetehara were always being neglected by FUNAI and looked upon as
a nuisance. She was proud to say that the Tenetehara, against all odds,
held their own as an ethnic group with a native language, customs, and
worldview. And moreover, they wanted to continue to be a separate
ethnic group, and only in this way become incorporated into the "national
The education program for which she was responsible had been started
in 1972 when a Summer Institute of Linguistics linguist-missionary wrote
a series of primers in Portuguese and Tenetehara, and FUNAI had decided
to institute a bilingual education program for the Tenetehara, as they
were doing for other Brazilian Indian groups. The program consisted
of the training of bilingual teachers, or monitores . who were selected
among the Tenetehara for their potential for learning how to read, write,
and teach in both Portuguese and the Tenetehara languages. This period
of training had started in the dry season of 1972 (June-November), and
she had so far spent a total of nine months (in three yearly periods
of three months) training some 40 Tenetehara to go back to their villages
and begin teaching. Of the 40 students, nineteen had shown sufficient
ability, learned the proper method, and were ready to begin work. In
fact, many of them had already been teaching since late 1974 but so far
they had not received a penny for their work, and had consequently
stopped the classes. She was now, as she had been ever since she took
on this job, fighting the FUNAI bureaucracy to release the money to
pay the monitores and to continue with the program. These monitores
had the equivalent of the Brazilian third grade education, and they were
eager to get more education to be able to finish the equivalent of
elementary school. There was, therefore, a need for more training.
Moreover, according to personal reports from the teachers, she said that
the classes that had been held were received most eagerly by Tenetehara
of all ages. The complaints had been only that they had not had enough,
that the teachers had not been paid, and that the promised school lunch
had never been delivered.
I could not help but feel instant liking for this hard-working young
woman who was so enthusiastic about the Tenetehara. As I observed the
way other employees moved about, she appeared to be an odd cog in the
wheels of bureaucracy. They treated her with misgivings and in some
cases, rather callously. As I found out later her salary was among the
lowest salaries paid in all of FUNAI, superior only to the salaries of
janitors, office boys, and manual workers, and lower even than the
salaries that the Tenetehara monitores that she had helped train were
supposed to get.
As I talked to her I found out that one of these Tenetehara monitores
was going to arrive in Sao Luis in a couple of days. He was one of the
few respected Tenetehara capitaes for his good command of Portuguese,
his grasp of what was going on in the land dispute in his own area, and
for his way of getting things done with the commissioner. I was told
that his village was located in the upper Mearim River, municfpio of
Grajau, in an area which was not only centrally located in terms of
Tenetehara territory, but was also having hotly contested disputes with
neighboring Brazilians. Not quite a month had passed since some Tenetehara
had supposedly slapped mud on the face of an ornery Brazilian landowner
who had insulted and threatened the Indians to leave "his" land. This
could be the best place for me and my wife, she said, because his village
was fairly well "organized," with little or no competition between
family groups because of his strong leadership. There was an Indian
Post nearby and no missionaries in the area, two factors which in her
mind would facilitate fieldwork and quick rapport with the villagers.
Above all, in that area the Tenetehara still retained certain old
customs, such as the girls' initiation rites, and they had been talking
of performing the Honey Feast, the most beautiful and touching of the
Tenetehara social rituals (cf. Wanl.y and GalvSo 1949:122-125). And
finally, fro. there I could travel to a n,ore "accul turated" area to the
east, and to the least acculturated Tenetehara area to the northwest.
I agreed. I would wait and talk to the capitSo about staying in his
vi 1 lage.
But to return to my first experiences in SSo Lufs, as I had first
walked into the front yard of the FUNA, office, , had noticed a s™,, „,an
with a copper brown complexion sitting in a chair, arms folded across his
lap, and with stooped shoulders, in an attitude of dismay and indifference
He looked about 55 to 60 years old, as far as I could tell. He was
dressed in a short-sleeved white cotton shirt and dark cotton pants, both
of which had patches in several places and the underarm seam was ripped.
He was very quiet, barely nodding agreement when addressed by people
around him. Upon asking 1 „as told that he was a Tenetehara named Manuel'
fromAnjico Torto, an area which was having considerable trouble in terms
of land invasion by Brazilian peasants. Manuel had been sent up to Sao
Lufs by the Indian Post agent of his area to be "disciplined." Apparently
he had lost his temper over the fact that a Brazilian peasant was living
on Tenetehara land, and he had gone to this man's place, killed one of his
pigs and threatened to kill him too if he didn't "get the hell opt" of
Indian land. The Indian agent, though sympathetic with Manuel's feelings,
had decided that a talk with the commissioner, a higher authority than he!
was necessary to cool him off.
"Lucky break," I thought to myself excitedly for here was the first
Brazilian Indian I had ever seen. I went up to Manuel, greeted him,
anci^_sk_edJ^^could come up and see him this evening, fie was going to
their'lnon^^nr' ^"'""^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^--^^'^ to preserve
stay in the Casa do fndio (Indian House), a kind of hostel owned and
run by FUNAI that lodges Indians who come to Sao Luis for medical treat-
ment or other business. A FUNAI jeep was ordered to take Manuel to his
place and as our hotel was nearby in the downtown area we hopped in for
That evening my wife and I walked the three blocks of narrow and
winding paved streets of downtown S~ao luU, and knocked on the door of
a freshly painted green house that, like all downtown S5o Luis houses,
was separated from the street only by a three foot wide sidewalk. A
Brazilian woman peeped through the door view and told us there was no
Indian by the name of Manuel there. As I insisted that I had permission
from FUNAI to come there another woman came up to the door and recognized
me. She was a FUNAI nurse in charge of the health and treatment of the
Indians who came there. We were led into what could be called the TV
room: a portable TV was turned on, and two plastic-covered couches
were placed on either side of it. The room smelled musty, as though it
never got any fresh air. One husky Indian wearing prescription glasses,
who I somehow sensed to be a Canella, was talking to some young children
whom the Brazilian women were trying to put to bed. These children
were two three year old girls, a seven year old and two adolescent
boys. They were all Guaja Indians, one of the last remaining hunting
and gathering tribes that speaks a Tupi language. They had been brought
to Sao Luis two or three years before. Two Guaja bands had been
encountered somewhere on the Caru River and these children, along with
two or three adults who later died, had contracted intestinal and
pulmonary diseases. Their health was improving, but they were always
recovering from occasional colds and diarrhea. Their diet was being
watched as well as, in the case of the boys, their sexual behavior and
demeanor. The little girls were much appreciated and loved by all around
them. They had been given Brazilian names and were being taught Portuguese
words like mamae (mommy) and titia (auntie), etc. The boys were rather
morose and steadfastly refused to speak Portuguese or talk to anyone
but each other or one or another Tenetehara or Urubu-Kaapor Indian who
resided in the Indian House. .
Manuel was laying in a hammock in one of the rooms where the Indians
were lodged. Someone went to fetch him as we were led into the dining
room where there was a table, chairs and buffet. Manuel came into the
dining room and as we were sitting down we were joined by another Tenete-
hara Indian, Celestino, also from Manuel's village. Celestino called
Manuel " cumpa " Manuel (from compadre , Portuguese for cofather), but
he seemed to be acting more deferential to Manuel than the term "cumpa"
implies, perhaps because of the age factor. Celestino had come to Sao
Luis for an operation on a tumor that had grown on his back and for other ■
Our conversation began by my relating to them that I was not working
for FUNAI and that I wanted to visit their village and learn about their '
way of life. They looked at me rather intently, with only an occasional
nod or grunt as if to let me know that they were listening and wanted
to hear the next utterance. We smoked and then we began talking about
the land question and then Manuel's eyes were sparkling and he began
to tell me why he had killed the karaiw 's ("white man" in Tenetehara)
pig. The karaiw had shot Manuel's brother one year ago leaving a widow
and two orphans. He had also killed Manuel's grandmother at an unspecified
time and through unspecified means. He had been taken to Amarante, the
municrpio's seat where he had been jailed and badly beaten. But then
he was released and had returned to Indian land and now Manuel wanted
to kill him. When I mentioned that if he killed this man he would like-
wise leave a family without a father to support them, Manuel just
retorted, "That's how it is . . .
Manuel said where they live there used to be no Brazilians, except
one or two families, until two years ago when a road construction company
bought a large area of land to the east of the Indian land and began
to build a road right through the edge of the land from the town of •
GrajaJ to a Brazilian village called Arame, where there used to be a
Tenetehara village. Then the caboclos started to come there in search
of land, and^as all other land belonged to this company or established
landowners, they had just settled on Indian land. There were about
6,000 families, I was told, with land cleared all around and settlements
growing up by the day. Manuel said that game which used to be abundant
was running away from all the bustle and noise. The Indians were being
pushed further back into the jungle, he felt.'
But if I would come there I was going to like it for there was
still plenty of game and an abundance ( fartura ) of produce ( legumes ):
manioc, maize, yams, sweet potatoes, beans, fava beans, "everything you
needed." Celestino said there was a big lake there, called Lago Branco,
which was enchanted (encantado ) . You could hear dogs barking at night
and once a flock of jandaia parrots had been seen flying over it and
then to disappear into the waters. That is where the Tenetehara go
hunting in the dry season to get meat to barbacue for the girls' initia-
tion rite. Celestino and Manuel were longing for their land, to return
to their families.
The next day we met Alberto, the minitor-capitao of BacurizTnho
who had come to bring the commissioner a document to prove that the land
in dispute had been bought by the SPI from a landowner in 1959, and
therefore was Indian's land. He was a short, bulky man with a fat belly
the like of which I have never seen on any other Indian. He had a
drooping "Genghis Khan" moustache (another unique trait as most Tenete-
hara who sport moustaches prefer the 1940s "Clark Gable" style), a
potentially heavy beard, squarish face and head, medium brown eyes with
a slight epicanthic fold, and two of his lower incisors were missing,
while two upper teeth were decorated with gold.
His personality was different, it seemed to me, from the personal-
ities of the other two Tenetehara I had talked to in the Indian House.
He listened attentively but with a touch of nonchalance, and answered
in moderate tones, always observing how you would react. He was very
proficient in Portuguese and could easily pick up on innuendoes and
ironic statements. He knew how to be ironic or sarcastic and could also
make direct critical statements to people, in this case, keeping a
straight, serious face. If what he said was laughed at or challenged
as of doubtful validity, he would look down to his feet or hands (if he
was sitting), and mutter something like "Well , if you say so . . ." if
someone made him laugh he would do so heartily or moderately as the
Alberto had a way of prevailing upon some of the FUNAI functionaries,
even the commissioner, that left them always with a bitter aftertaste.
He was a bully in one case, and slightly cajoling in the other. He knew
it and figured that he might as well keep doing it as long as it worked.
He looked in his prime, about 36 years old and on the rise.
Alberto told me that he had been capita~o of Bacurizinho since 1963
when a former SPI commissioner had appointed him as such. (Actually his
appointment was made in 1973 although in 1963 he had been given the
obscure task of taking care of a non-existent Indian Post.) Previously
his father had been the capitao of Bacurizinho, but he had died in 1958
of intestinal or pulmonary diseases ("he used to smoke a lot of marijuana")
From 1958 to 1963 Bacurizinho had been "governed" by a council of adult
men in lieu of a strong man that would lead the village. Now Bacurizinho
was well ruled, well organized and disciplined. It had some 500 people,
he said. As it turned out it had about 290 people which nonetheless
places Bacurizinho as the largest Tenetehara village on record. '
Yes, I could come and live there with my wife and learn how to
speak the Tenetehara language. We could take the bus Saturday night or
Sunday morning to Grajau, do some shopping there Monday and then go to
Bacurizinho the next day by renting a pick-up truck that would take us
to the nearby Indian Post.
Everything was pretty much decided and as a conclusion to our inter-
view I asked him about kinship terms and got the uneasy picture that the
Tenetehara had a mixture of lineal and bifurcate merging systems in the
first ascending generation and a Hawaiian in ego's own generation.
Wagley and Galv^-o (1949) had reported a bifurcate merging system-but
at that moment I could not dispute the word of a principal informant.
And at any rate, I was asking him questions not so much to gather ethno-
graphic data, but only to get his view of the general situation. I was
wary of what people were telling me and not ready to trust anyone in
particular. I was. going to check everything out for myself, an attitude
which came quite naturally under these circumstances. It was only
months later that I was able to confirm or dismiss the veracity of some-
one's information. In some cases I was pleasantly surprised to find that
so and so's view of a situation had been truthfully stated or at least
not purposely misstated. As a rule, it now seems to me, factual or
analytically correct information was obtained only after the first month
of my stay in the state of Maranhao-both from Tenetehara as well as
Brazilian informants. It was necessary for me to have a certain amount
of previous knowledge of a particular situation in order to get a '
complete picture of it. Whether because the problems I wanted to learn
about were themselves unclear or controversial, such as the land question,
ethnohistory, inter-ethnic relations, economic organization, and a
changing social structure, or because of the character of my informants,
the methodology I found most suitable was the dialogue, and in some
cases, the debate. In either case the positions I took were generally
consistent with my views whether I was talking to a Brazilian landowner
about the land question or the Tenetehara about cosmological views.
Straight data interviewing was done only in the case of demographical
Having been raised in a rural area of Brazil similar to that of
interior Maranhao, I felt I had an advantage in that I have a similar
Portuguese accent and had a certain "instinct" that would help present
myself as an anthropologist without raising undue suspicion and lack of
cooperation. Nevertheless it took some time before people in the town
of Grajau stopped addressing me as if I were a " paulista " (from Sao
Paulo State) or "nmieiro" (from Minas Gerais State) capitalist in search
of land to buy. And on one occasion when I was stranded at the cross-
roads of a highway half sick with malaria and had to stay in the "hotel"
Of a cearense (from Ceara State) jack-of-all-trades I never was able
to convince this man that I was not a Federal Police investigator. Land
buyers and undercover police, therefore, were apparently what the
Brazilians were seeing the most of in those times. On the positive
side, being an anthropologist and not a sociologist was what saved me
from potential trouble when I was questioned by a Federal Police captain
investigating the marijuana traffic of the area. He reasoned that
sociology had something to do with socialism, while anthropologists are
interested in innocuous things, like dances, rituals/and artifacts.
Among the Tenetehara, in the villages of Bacurizinho and Ipu, I
was fairly quickly accepted as a FUNAI employee of sorts. My position
was enhanced when I participated in the meetings in GrajaJ arranged by
FUNAI to mediate on the land question between the Tenetehara of the
Bacurizinho Indian Post and a nearby landowner. There was a problem in
interpreting the phraseology of a deed of agreement made in 1959 between,
the SPI and an in-law of this landowner, and I was able to persuade the
commissioner that the said landowner was trying to misinterpret the
original deed. The good news of my taking a stance in favor of the
Tenetehara soon spread among them, and that helped me when I began to ■
question them about their ethnohistory. They became eager to tell me
how they have been losing ground to the karaiw and how now it was time '
for them to take a stronger posture, if only FUNAI would be of some help.
Throughout the fi ve months of field research (between July and
December, 1975) in four of the five Tenetehara reservation areas the
situation was one of constant expectation that something drastic might
break out. Eventually it did in the Anjico Torto Indian Post area where
there was a large number (perhaps as many as 2,000 families) of Brazilian
peasants settled on Indian land. In February, 1975, FUNAI had given
these peasants until September to harvest their manioc and rice crops
and pack up and leave. By the middle of November most of them had left
either on their own or coerced by the Federal Police, but some stubborn
families had remained, spurred on by local politicians and landowners, in
the hope that the Tenetehara would relinquish or lose their claim.
Finally the Indian Post agent, an extraordinarily energetic and fearless
defender of the Tenetehara rights to their lands and way of life, had
gathered some twenty or thirty Tenetehara men and driven to the invaded
area to give a final notice of evacuation to the remaining peasant
invaders. But one man and his son refused to budge and threatened to
kill the agent if he did not leave immediately. Somehow the agent got
a hold of the man's gun and was wrestling it away from him when the
man's son came up from behind and managed to stick the point of a
knife into the agent's back before he was pulled back. The Tenetehara
immediately jumped on the two peasants and reportedly beat them to a
pulp. The agent was taken to an airstrip and was flown to Sao Luis where
he soon recovered from the wound.
Rumors and counter rumors of imminent attacks and further killing '
spread from both sides, leaving the whole area in more tension. But by
the end of December only one more killing had been perpetrated by the
Tenetehara. (I have not subsequently been able to gain any further
news of this situation.) At the time of my departure in late December
no Tenetehara had been brought to trial and it is unlikely that any ever
will by virtue of their special immunity as wards of the Federal govern-
ment. The peasants, at any rate, in most other situations as well,
seemed to lack the benefit of a juridicial system.
Having come to Maranhao expecting only a few Tenetehara to be still
living as an ethnic group apart from the Brazilian society, I found, on
the contrary, a growing population of Tenetehara who had become conscious
of their ethnic identification, particularly in terms of holding their
land. This was an experience which soon made me change not only previous
notions of Tenetehara acculturation but also my views on the supposed
inevitability of other Indian groups' ethnic extinction. Throughout
the year 1975 several Indian groups had in various ways rebelled against
their historical fate of miscengenation and ethnic extinction. The
Xavante in the state of Mato Grosso, the Xokleng and Kaingang in
Southern Brazil as well as the Tenetehara were making news almost weekly
for their concerted action in protecting their respective lands. In
most cases reported, the protection of their lands seemed to be the
rallying cry against Brazilian encroachment.
THE TENETEHARA IN THE MODERN WORLD'
These first impressions of my encounter with a few Tenetehara
Indians convey a sense of how an anthropologist approaches a confusing
situation for field research. Further introductory information, however,
is necessary before I can properly state the problem of this dissertation.
One must understand the traditional relationship of the Tenetehara Indians
with their Brazilian neighbors and the changing nature of these social
and economic ties. Fundamental to the changing situation of the Tenete-
hara Indians is their dependency upon the increasing power of Brazilian
governmental agencies, especially the National Foundation for the
Indian (FUNAI), in the region. Furthermore, related to both the Indian
and FUNAI is the rapid encroachment of modern agricultural and cattle
raising enterprises into the region. This chapter will therefore focus
upon these relationships, bureaucratic agencies, and the new economic
trends in the region. The basic problem, as stated earlier, is the
struggle for land in which the Indian, their Brazilian peasant neighbors,
the governmental agencies, and the new capitalistic agricultural and
cattle enterprises participate.
Indians and Brazilians
In the first place, the personalities of Manuel and Celestino can
be analyzed in terms of their individual knowledge of, and position
relative to, the Brazilian society. Although they do not cover the whole
continuum, Manuel and Celestino are representative of the vast majority
of the Tenetehara people. They live mainly through their production
in hunting, fishing, and agriculture--which activities are carried out
by nuclear family, or extended family, groups (see Chapters VI, VII
and VIII ). With the surplus from these activities as well as from the
extraction of forest products and recently the manufacture Of crafts,
they enter into relations with the Brazilian society via a trade economy.
In turn they obtain the necessary goods, such as for example iron imple-
ments, clothes, kerosene, guns, gun powder, and flash lights without which
life would be too uncomfortable. They may also occasionally hire
themselves out as day laborers to Brazilian peasants or big landowners.
Both the trade economy and the hire of one's labor involve a kind of
social relationship which I call patron-cl ientship. This relationship
entails a system of credit granted by the patron to his clients and the
obligation of the client to do business with the creditor-patron. Credit
is usually extended in the form of commodities, as most patrons are
also owners of trade stores, but it can be in cash as well. Socially
it entails the subordination of the client to his patron; this subordin-
ation is expressed in the low profile of Tenetehara behavior in Brazilian
towns and the patronizing attitude of the patrons toward their clients
both in the towns and in their visits to Tenetehara villages.
The difference between Manuel and Celestino is that the former is
older (about 55 years of age) and hence less productive. He therefore
has a more restricted sphere of relations with Brazilians, and hence
less reason to relate to them, to know about them beyond the pragmatic
aspects of the patron-client relationship. People like Manuel tend to be
conservative-minded as far as ethnic identification is concerned. When
friction between Brazilians and Tenetehara arises they provide the
leadership of Tenetehara reaction to Brazilians, whether or not this
reaction manifests itself individually or through concerted action.
Celestino, on the other hand, is a middle age man of about 35 years
which is, in fact, the most productive years of a man's life. He is
at a point in his life when he must create a kin group of his own
principally by marrying off his sons and daughters and keeping them
under his control. Therefore he desires to have more of the Brazilian
goods in order to pave his way to the, status of head of an independent
extended family. Thus people like Celestino tend to form larger networks
of interaction with Brazilians and tend to know more of Brazilian ways.
They are more flexible and less entrenched in their ethnic identification,
perhaps having in mind the possibility that they may have to leave their
village and live like a Brazilian peasant, at least for a time. People
like Celestino are considered "good Indians" by Brazilians as opposed to
people like Manuel who are viewed as "bad Indians."
In addition to the Manuels and Celestinos there is another main
type of Tenetehara man, the young married man. These men are structurally
under the control of older men as heads of extended family groups. Even
those young married men who, for demographic reasons, are not part of
an extended family group, but live and produce their means of subsistence
by the nuclear family arrangement, are nevertheless dependent upon the
control of the rest of the society, i.e., the middle aged and older
adult males. This control is expressed internally in how a particular
village organizes communal projects, such as the moving of the village
to another site, and externally by the way the Brazilians relate to them.
That is, Brazilians relate to them with the assumption that they can
only rely on them through the sanction of the older men of the village.
This sanction occurs in the form of the trust and reliability in which
the older men, "responsible" for the young men, are held by the
In fact, the vast majority of the Tenetehara including the women
irrespective of age, are generally treated by Brazilians as Indians who
can be manipulated by dint of small favors and concessions which are
granted in the process of ordering them around and making them feel that
they are under the power of the Brazilian society. This type of social
relationship, which will be analyzed historically in the next chapter, is
essentially the same type which FUNAI uses in relating to the Tenetehara.
These social relations are changing somewhat, and this change has
been brought about by the recent economic developments in the Tenete-
hara regions. These changes are epitomized in the problem of land inva-
sions and the inability of FUNAI as the "big patron" to solve it. The
Tenetehara still feel that FUNAI should be their mediator in relation to
this problem, but they no longer feel that they must accept the dictates
of FUNAI, such as that of conceding portions of their land to effect
a compromise and save FUNAI from national embarrassment. They demand
of FUNAI the' legal protection of their land, and some political support
(e.g., the military support of the Federal Police), but the Indians them-
selves are willing to provide the grass roots protective measures such
as attempting to prevent invaders on reservation land. This is a new
attitude of consciousness of their problems as an ethnic group separate
from the national society, and consciousness of the role which they must
play in order to keep their separate identity.
This attitude is also reflected in the relations with local
Brazilians, particularly now that the credit basis of patron-cl ientship
is being superseded by the appearance of credit agencies, such as the
National Institute of Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA) and the Bank
of Brazil, as the most important source of credit to Brazilian peasants.
Local Brazilian store owners and compradores are no longer capable of
providing the Tenetehara with credit, as before, because they themselves
are now debtors to these credit agencies and cannot spare the meager
liquid capital that they have because of the long term arrangement of
accountability that is inherent in the patron-client credit system.
Thus relations between Brazilians and Tenetehara are becoming more "busi-
ness-like," as economic transactions take the form of transfer of
commodities for cash and vice versa, rather than commodities for
commodities. Moreover, all transactions are being carried out at one
time, not stretched over a indeterminate period of time. Consequently,
there is no economic basis for Brazilians and Tenetehara to interact in
a superordinate-subordinate form as in the patron-client relationship.^
Thus, as far as the Brazilians are concerned, the Tenetehara are becoming
more suspicious, less trustworthy, and even haughty in their socio-
economic relations with them. And in the eyes of the Tenetehara, the
Brazilians are no longer patrons, or potential patrons, but only covetous
people who want the Indians lands, and their labor and labor products
for cheap prices without the former benefits of smal 1 economic consessions.
This is not to say that a capitalist type of economic relations
brings about the equality of unequal producers of capital and unequal
sharers of the body politic. The inequality that comes from capitalist
relations is, however, of a different kind, and they have not quite
taken form in the area.
And as the Brazilians do not provide them with credit, they are resented
even more for their supposed greed and lack of patronage.
The behavior of Alberto, the third of my early acquaintances among
the Tenetehara, is a positive example of the new form of social relations
that are arising from the dissolution of patron-cl ientship and the ,
land problem. Resentment, suspicion, and impersonal transactions are
translated into a relationship with Brazilians which involves the demand
for more equanimity of treatment. Alberto is, of course, an acknowledged
leader, or capitao, of his village, and also a man capable of some
influence in other villages nearby. He is also one of the nineteen
monitores, or bilingual teachers, who are drawing a federal salary in
the order of cr$l,200.00 per month (or U.S. $150.00 as of July, 1975).
This brings with it the necessary cash for immediate purchases. Further-
more, his knowledge of Portuguese and of Brazilian society puts him in a
position to challenge through Brazilian law the claims of Brazilian
landowners and peasants to Tenetehara lands, as well as the patronizing
claims of former patrons of having been "good" to the Tenetehara and
therefore deserving of patron-like treatment. Alberto presses the same
type of challenge against FUNAI, and he and a few people like him have
been relatively successful in this new stance.
Tenetehara like Alberto are few in number. Most of the nineteen
monitores who could be in such a position are rather young married men
(there is one young woman) who cannot command the kind of respect from
Brazilians that Alberto gets. But of the six or seven other Tenetehara
in this position at least four are also monitores, although not capitaes
of their villages. The other two are leaders of large extended families who,
from 1972 to 1974, were earning quite a lot of money from the production
and sale of craft goods which were in great demand in the national market.
In short, like Alberto, these Tenetehara make a living more through a
salary or craft trade than through the production of an agricultural
surplus. In fact, most of the nineteen monitores and five or six
Tenetehara craft dealers did not even plant gardens in the years 1973
Nevertheless, the fact that these "respected" Tenetehara do not
utilize the resources of the land to the same extent as their fellow
tribesmen does not place them in a position to compromise the demands
of Tenetehara land claims. In fact, partly because their economic
position (salaried federal employees and craft dealers) is a result of thei
being Indians, partly because they know what it means to be a landless
Brazilian peasant, and finally because of pressure from their fellow
Tenetehara, these people became the spokesmen for Tenetehara land claims.
And, in a larger sense, they are also leaders for Tenetehara claim to
remain a viable society, a positive alternative to becoming landless
peasants or rural proletarians. Consequently, while their fellow Tenete-
hara upset the Brazilians and FUNAI through their individual or concerted
actions of aggressive behavior, these respected Tenetehara present
themselves as leaders capable of redirecting these actions towards more
peaceful resolutions. It should be pointed out that the commissioner
as well as two or three local landowners had tried without success to
buy off several of these Indian spokesmen by offering them money to
persuade their fellow tribesmen to give up portions of their lands.
On the other hand, in the area of the Anjico Torto Indian Post, in a
village which lacked this kind of leadership, a large cattle company
peacefully succeeded in convincing this village to let a road be cut
right through the middle of it, thus alienating some of the village's
land which previously belonged to the reservation area of Arariboia,
of which this Indian Post is a part.
Indians and FUNAI
The role of FUNAI as mediator between Tenetehara and Brazilians
will be analyzed historically in. the next chapter. However, it may be
germane in this introductory chapter to describe how FUNAI functions in
terms of its internal structure. To begin with, when I speak of FUNAI
in general terms I mean the general policy and actions of the Brazilian
government toward the Tenetehara whether it is determined directly by the
headquarters of FUNAI in Brasilia, or the Regional Offices, or the
agents in the Indian Posts.
FUNAI is the agency of Brazilian Indian policy. It is supposed to
formulate this policy and implement it on the regional and local levels.
FUNAI was created, after the dissolution of the SPI, or Servigo de
Protegao aos Indies (Indian Protection Service) by Law Number 5.371 of
December 5, 1967 which set out the guidelines for the formation of this
agency as distinct from the previous structure of the SPI. In 1972 the
Regulamento Interne , or by-laws, and the general terms of Indian policy
had been formulated and approved by the Ministry of the Interior.
FUNAI is under the jurisdiction of the Ministery of the Interior,
the secretariat level of the executive branch of the Brazilian government
which is in charge of regulating the sale of national lands and creating
programs of colonization and/or exploitation of these lands. Since
these national lands are essentially the lands where the Indians live,
FUNAI is in a rather paradoxical position as far as its claim to protect
the right of the Indians to full possession and usufruct of their lands
is concerned. In numerous cases FUNAI has actually served the Brazilian
government and the interests of private individuals and companies rather
than the interest of the Indians by persuading the latter to disclaim
possession of their territory or by simply removing Indian groups to
other areas of less value or outside the orbit of economic and political
interests. In every area where Indians live and which is considered
national land, FUNAI functions in this paradoxical position.
As a bureaucracy FUNAI consti tutes a structure of hierarchical levels
of. decision making, management, and policy carriers. This structure can
be described in brief terms. The highest level of decision making is
constituted by the president of FUNAI, the Council of Curators (five
members) and the Council of Indigenous Affairs (seven members), all of whom
are appointed by the President of the Republic as recommended by the
Minister of the Interior. The former council is in charge, among other
things, of "assessing the acts of acquisition and alienation of the fixed
assets of the Foundation [FUNAI]" (cf. FUNAI's " Legislaeao " 1975:38,
art 10, para. 11, section 1. The description of FUNAI presented here
is taken from this publication.). The latter council is in charge of
creating Indian policy. "
The second level is formed by the General Administration (SA), the
Organs of Assessment (OA), which are in charge of juridical and security
matters, and the Planning and Coordinating Junta (JPC)--an of which are
presided over by the President of FUNAI. The JPC is formed by the
directors of the following management departments: (1) the General
Department of Operations (DG) under which are the regional executive
units, i.e., the Regional Offices ( del egacias ) , the Sub-Regional Offices
( ajudandas ) , and the Indian Parks (parques indtgenas ) ; (2) the General
Department of Indian Patrimony (DGPI) which is in charge of surveying
' and demarcating Indian lands; (3) the General Department of Administration
(DGA) which is in charge of allocating moneys and creating new positions;
and (4) the General Department of Community Planning (DGPC) which is in
charge of promoting anthropological research and developmental programs
in Indian communities. Of. these departments the DGO and DGA are the
most powerful because the first appoints the personnel at the regional
level, and the second because it controls the disposal of monies and
At the regional level are the Regional Offices of which there are
nine, three Sub-Regional Offices which are subordinated to the Regional
Offices, and four Indian Parks. The latter are areas where the Indian
population has only recently been contacted and where there is need of
closer attention from FUNAI both in terms of protective measures in
contact situations with the local segments of the national society and in
terms of medical assistance and immunological programs in the case of
epidemics and infectuous diseases.
Under the Regional Offices are the Indian Posts, which are the
lowest level at which policy is carried out. The Indian Posts are
administered by a chefe, or agent, who had some theoretical training in
anthropology and administration in a three month course given in Brazil ia,
sponsored by FUNAI. A Post should also have a enfermeiro , or practical
nurse, who is in charge of the Indians' health conditions. He or she is
trained to implement sanitary conditions in Indian villages, to apply
topical treatment, and to diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication for
their cure. Each Post is equipped with a pharmacy containing medicines
of the sort that the enfermeiro is likely to use, such as I.V. sorum,
medicine against intestinal parasites, cough syrups, and, the most
common cure-all, antibiotics. Finally, a Post also has a trabalhador
bragal, or manual worker, who is given the task of tending the patrimony
of the Post whether it is cattle, orchards, or vegetable gardens.
The salaries of FUNAI functionaries are well above the national
average of salaries for equivalent positions. A commissioner earns at
least US $1,250.00 (cr$10,000. 00 as of July, 1975) per month, an agent
about US $550.00, an enfermeiro about US $150.00, and a manual worker
about US $90.00. Other employees in the Regional Offices earn salaries
ranging from US $150.00 to about US $900.00. It should be pointed out
that the lowest salary of those quoted here, all of which are monthly
salaries, represents the equivalent of twice the monthly minimum wage
as currently paid in the State of Maranhao. These relatively high
salaries are presented here to dispel any ideas that the incompetency
of FUNAI in the regional level is a result of corruption, due to low
What is important to note in the structure of FUNAI bureaucracy is
that the Regional Offices, which are in charge of actually carrying out
the act of demarcating Indian lands, are under the Department of General
Operations/Department of Indian Patrimony (DGO). Thus when the Sixth
Regional Office in Sao Lufs attempts to survey and demarcate Tenetehara
lands it must apply to the DGO in Brasilia to get the budget and to the
DGPI to get permission to undertake the project. The DGPI sets the guide-
lines of a demarcation project and passes the project to the DGO which
then forwards it back to the Sao Luis Office. The concatenation of these
bureaucratic operations is very difficult to bring about, and in the
final analysis it is the DGO which tries to organize everything by itself.
Frequently the DGO sends a representative to an area with a problem to
determine ways in which to settle the dispute when the Sao Luis Office
has already contacted everyone concerned in the dispute and has been
acting upon it in an entirely different manner. That only brings about
confusion in the minds of the Tenetehara, the agents of Posts and the
Brazilians involved in the dispute, including the Federal Police.
Suffice it to say that in 1959 the reservation area of Bacurizinho
was demarcated by the SPI, but, with a subsequent challenge of this
demarcation by a local landowner in 1970, FUNAI had not been capable
of finalizing the legalization of this area as national patrimony as
of the end of 1975. The Tenetehara of this area, whose situation was
not nearly as bad as that of the areas of Anjico Torto and Pindare,
were rather anxious about their future and very critical of FUNAI.
Indians and the New Economic Developments
What is so crucial in the land question for the future of the Tenete-
hara is that forest lands in Maranhao have recently become a high priced
commodity. Medium and large size capitalist enterprises have been coming
to Maranhao to buy tracts of land that range from 20,000 to 500,000
acres, or even larger. When these enterprises began to arrive in 1971
they could buy an acre of land for as little as US $3.00. By 1975.
the market price of land had shot up to US $20.00 to $30.00 per acre.
By that year there were few large local landowners who had not already
sold most of their lands. In the process they had displaced hundreds
of peasant families who had been living as squatters or sharecroppers
working for a share of the landowners' cattle and agricultural production.
And now these landowners were coercing the small independent peasants
to sell their lands for a low price so that they could resell it with
a profit to the incoming capitalists.
The result of this process of the rise of capitalism in rural
Maranhao was doubly detrimental to the Tenetehara. First because there
are now thousands of peasants invading or ready to invade Tenetehara
lands, and second because the patron-client credit system upon which the
Tenetehara had relied for over one hundred years is rapidly crumbling.
From a perspective of the economic development of rural Maranhao,
it seems clear that the more efficient techniques of cattle raising and
rice cultivation characteristic of these new capitalist enterprises
will soon displace the local mode of production based on peasant techniques
of cultivation and cattle raising, on patron-client relationships, and
on. a small margin of profit.^
Both the new capitalists as well as the displaced landless peasants
believe that the Indians are a barrier to economic development. They
believe that the Indians are inefficient in the utilization of their
supposed vast lands and they realize that. the Indians do not even pay
taxes like everyone else. These feelings caused a great deal of
anxiety among the Tenetehara not only because they are not able to dispute
these arguments, but also because they realize that these arguments
represent a potential threat to them, as an ideology of land seizure.
In short, the situation of the Tenetehara in 1975 was troublesome
and one of potential conflict. The land question was a problem which
needed to be urgently solved. It symbolized to the Tenetehara their
Cf. Velho 1976 for an analysis of the mode of production of a
similar area in the State of Parg. M'^uucnon or a
very existence and future. They consequently blamed most of their
problems and anxieties on it. The Tenetehara claimed that they were
not producing enough food for themselves because they were insecure
about their lands, when the problem was rather that they had neglected
their agricultural production to work on craft production for sale.
But it was because of land problems that they were being rallied
together into a new, strong bond of cohesion, particularly between
villages which traditionally had functioned as independent political
units. And they were planning to revive their social rituals with a
new, defiant pride in their Indian heritage. For example, the ceremonies
for the girls' initiation rites performed in the villages of Bacurizinho,
Ipu, Anjico Torto, and Cururu were much more elaborated and traditional
than they had been when Wagley and Galvao (1949:81-87) visited the
Tenetehara in the early 1940s. Twelve Tenetehara, led by the capitao
of Anjico Torto had come from their village located as far away as 100 km
in order to participate in one of these ceremonies performed in the
village of Ipu. • .
Thus, there were both personal (as in the case of Alberto's attitude
to the Brazilians) and social symbols for what Barth (1969) called "the
formation of ethnic boundaries." Given the objective conditions existing
between Brazilians and Tenetehara, one can refer to this process as the
raising of consciousness of ethnic identification. This process does
not entail the preclusion of acceptance of Brazilian cultural traits.
The Tenetehara continued to dress in Brazilian style, to buy guns, salt,
kerosene, soap; they were eager to have radios, wrist watches, and other
manufactured goods; they wanted to play soccer, to hold Brazilian style
dances, and to learn how to read and write in both Portuguese and Tenetehara.
They recognized that these traits and objects are Brazilian and there-
fore that they were dependent upon the Brazilian society for their
acquisition. This constituted a slight paradox in the articulation of
., their ethnic consciousness. Such a paradox, however, which is found
among all peoples who are in a conflict situation with a more powerful
society, is a necessary one not only for the rise of ethnic consciousness
but also because the resolution of this paradox fosters the internal
development of the society in question.
The Tenetehara, of course, do not articulate this paradox in this
manner but simply brush it aside as a fact they can do nothing to alter.
It is clear that the dependency relationship of the Tenetehara on the
Brazilian society will be exacerbated to the degree that the economy
of rural Maranhao becomes more and more capitalist oriented. Even if
one assumes that the Tenetehara will be able to retain their lands, they
will have to change their mode of production and consequently their
society and culture in general in order to be able to produce in
sufficiently competitive terms to acquire the goods they need.
■ The Tenetehara have been in contact with the Brazilian society for
over 350 years. They have faced many such challenges before and they
have been able to modify their society to meet these challenges. But
every new challenge seems to prove greater than the last, and this most
recent one appears to be more destructive than the others. This disser-
tation will attempt to show how the Tenetehara have survived these many
years of contact and managed to maintain their autonomy as a separate
The empirical problem to which this dissertation addresses itself is
the ethnic survival of the Tenetehara. The term ethnic stands for ethnic
group or a societal system that identifies itself and is identified by other
such systems as a separate and unique entity. Traditionally, an ethnic
group has been defined in terms of a self-maintaining population, a field
of interaction and communication, and a set of behavioral patterns and
cultural symbols. As will be seen below, these items may not all be
present in a unique form within a certain population in order for it to
be considered an ethnic group. The term survival is specifically used
here because comparative studies on the history of the contact relation-
ship between such societal systems as the Tenetehara and the Brazilian
show that the more powerful system tends to incorporate or destroy the
less powerful system. In sum, by ethnic survival is meant the continuing
existence of a self-identifying societal system in a contact relationship
with another such system.
I have already quoted Wagley and Galvao's (1949:183) statement to the
effect that by the present time (1975) the Tenetehara Indians were expected
to have become Brazilian peasants, to no longer constitute an ethnic group
separate from the mainstream of rural Brazilian society. Essentially
this development has not taken place and it is the goal of this dissertation
to demonstrate why it did not take place and to show what factors are
responsible for the phenomenon of Tenetehara ethnic survival.
The analysis of Tenetehara ethnic survival will begin with a
theoretical discussion of the changes and continuities of the Tenetehara
ethnic group between the period of Wagley and GalvSo's visit in 1941-45
and the time when the present anthropologist visited them in 1975. This
will be done both for the Tenetehara ethnic group in general, including
the Tenetehara not living in areas visited by the earlier anthropologists,
and in particular for the Tenetehara living in the area of the Pindare
and lower Zutiua Rivers with which the earlier anthropologists were most
closely acquainted. Such a task can be achieved, at least to the extent
that is necessary to present a comparative study of the survival of
the Tenetehara living in different areas, because the present writer
became acquainted with the contact situation of all five Tenetehara areas.
It should be stated at once that the prediction made by Wagley and
Galvao was not entirely off the mark, as far as the Tenetehara of the
Pindare and Zutiua are concerned. Indeed, of the ten villages with a
total population of about 800 people which they visited, only one can
be said to be in existence at the present time, while two new villages
have since been formed. The total population of the Tenetehara of that re-
gion does not presently exceed 350 people. This population decline of
the order of sixty percent was lost partly because of epidemiological
diseases, but also partly through acculturation. The process of Tenete-
hara acculturation, or rather, of the peasantization of the Tenetehara,
was the theoretical basis from which Waley and Galvao ventured their
Thus in order to critically discuss Wagley and Galvao's prediction
it is necessary to critically discuss acculturation theory. The theory
of acculturation was formulated in the 1930s by several American
anthropologists, notably Ralph Linton, Melville Herskovitz, and Robert
Redfield. It was an attempt to explain the process of Westernization
which the aboriginal societies of the New World, Oceania, and Africa
had been experiencing ever since their first contact with European
colonization. As an extension this theory purported to explain the
phenomenon of culture change through assimilation and internal restruc-
turing that any culture will develop when in close contact with another.
As stated in the classic formulation presented by Redfield, Linton, and
Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when
groups of individuals having different cultures come into
continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in
the original cultural patterns of either or both groups.
(NOTE: Under this definition, acculturation is to be
distinguished from culture-change , of which it is but one
aspect, and assimilation , which is at times a phase of
acculturation. It is also to be differentiated from
£L!lusion, which, while occurring in all instances of
acculturation, is not only a phenomenon which frequently
takes place without the occurrence of the type of contact
between peoples specified in the definition above, but
constitutes only one aspect of the process of acculturation.
Basic to this concept of acculturation is the concept of culture,
presumably viewed in a Tylorian sense as the totality of customs, behavior,
and organization of a population as a self-identifying, self-maintaining
unit. No provision is made to distinguish the concepts of society as
the structural-functional organization of a population into groups,
a_ndjhe con^cept of culture as the ideological and normative level of
organization of a population. Subsequently these two concepts have been
more clearly delineated, and the changes that occur within a defined
population group have been distinguished between social change (for
changes pertaining to the social structure through internal reorganization)
and cultural change (for those of the culture through the mechanisms of
Had this distinction been made by Wagley and Gal vao, it is possible
that their prediction would have been couched differently. These anthro-
pologists were much impressed by the degree of adoption of certain
Brazilian traits, such as house types, production tools, clothes,
knowledge of the Portuguese language; as well as the decline of aboriginal
Tenetehara customs, such as the boys' and girls' initiation rites, the
maize festival, the Honey festival. On this basis, coupled with the
intensity of contact between Tenetehara and Brazilians, Wagley and
Galvao projected a continuation of this trend into a situation in which
the Tenetehara ethnic group would no longer be distinguishable from the
rural Brazilian society. Their description of the social organization
of the Tenetehara, though correctly perceived and implicitly contrasted
with that of rural Brazilian society, was not analyzed in terms of its
role in keeping the Tenetehara together as a separate ethnic group.
Here the basic factors of descent and marriage were in full operation in
the Tenetehara society. Descent being bilateral, the offspring of
cross-cultural marriage could claim Tenetehara status whenever they so
wished,. whether their residence was within or outside Tenetehara society.^
As long as other variables such as the resources of land remained available
to them, the mechanisms of descent and social organization would be
suffient to maintain the Tenetehara as a distinct ethnic group.
Social change, in short, does not necessarily occur parallel to
cultural change. That, of course, already had been implicitly stated
in the theory of acculturation when it qualified the process of adoption
of foreign cultural traits by a particular society as one of modification
of the function of these traits to fit in with the structure of the
culture. But once again culture and society were not operationalized
Tn terms of different analytical levels of integration and cohesion.
On the other hand, numerous empirical examples of societies in
close contact with one another and therefore in the process of mutual
. acculturation showed that the distinction between the social and the
cultural as different categories of cohesion and of change was too hair-
splitting and only obfuscated the analysis of the process of acculturation
earth (1969:9ff), in criticizing the theory of acculturation, suggested
that an ethnic group in close contact and intercourse with other such
groups might borrow cultural and social traits from the others and still
retain self-identification as a separate ethnic group, as long as a
constellation of features of this group was retained. This constellation
of features he called the "culture core." Earth suggested that the
culture core might be constituted of any kinds of traits, whether social
or cultural, and that the choice of these traits was up to the circum-
stances of interaction of the ethnic groups in mutual relationship with
one another. Thus, in a certain area composed of two or more ecological
niches which were exploited by different ethnic groups the culture core
of each group would be composed of the features that were utilized for '
the adaptive exploitation of the particular ecological niches in question.
The other features outside these culture cores could be shared by the
other ethnic groups without thereby causing the undifferentiation of the
groups. In earth's terminology, the culture core was the unit of self-
ascription for the particular group as well as the unit of ascription of
the group by other particular groups.
The problem with Earth's scheme is that the culture core was
essentially an empirical unit. For the self-ascription of an ethnic group
there was no one feature that was sinejua_r^, predictable on a scientific
basis. So that if one were to study the dynamic interaction of two or
more ethnic groups, and even if one knew the historical background of this
interaction, one could not assume any feature of culture core of any and
every group. One would just have to determine it in loco. Thus,
earth's scheme is essentially descriptive and empiricist. His culture
core lacks the promised theoretical use that would go beyond the theory
of acculturation and the operational distinction between the social and
the cultural .
A particular shortcoming of Barth's empiricism is that there is no
socio-cultural component that brings about the self-identifica-
tion^and perpetuity of an ethnic group. Such a component has been
identified by many anthropologists who have studied the problem of
. minorities in plural societies (cf. Wagley and Harris 1958) as the rule
of descent. Whether or not a particular ethnic group shares the culture
of another ethnic group, it is indeed hard to imagine the continuation
of this ethnic group without a rule of descent. Even an ethnic group
that uses a cultural norm, such as a ritual of incorporation, to recruit
and absorb members, it needs as well to incorporate the offspring of
its own members. Otherwise the ethnic group would be no more than a
special corporation within a larger self-maintaining unit. A rule of
descent which ascribes membership is, therefore, the basic component of
the formation and maintenance of an ethnic group. Other socio-cultural
components are intended to reinforce membership in the group, such as
rituals to mark the biological necessities of growth, reproduction and
death. Finally, and on a higher level of integration, more specifically
cultural forms exist, such as norms of behavior, ideology, worldview.
religion, and so on.
In short, if one were to follow and systematize Barth's scheme, the
culture core of any ethnic group would be defined as constituting the
basic feature of a rule of descent ascribing membership and a super-
structure of ideological reinforcement. Or to put it in more common
anthropological terms, the culture core is formed of certain elements
of a social structure and a cultural structure in mutual relationship
to one another. These structures constitute a skeleton of forms, the
contents of which would be determined by other circumstances. In the
case of an ethnic group, such as the Jews in the United States, the
contents that fill these structures come from both an historical tradi-
tion already given and the actual mode of subsistence which they have
created in the process of adapting to the socio-economic niches available
to them in the United States.
The idea of a culture core as an operational category to define the
minimal components of an ethnic group in contact with other ethnic groups
seems to defeat its purposes in both Barth's definition and in its re-elabor-
ation presented here. In the first instance, the culture core is merely,
an empirical category which lacks predictive and comparative value.
In the second instance, it assumes the existence of descent rules upon
which other categories are built, all of which derive ultimate existence
and functionality from another basic category, the mode of subsistence.
This re-elaboration, therefore, assumes the structural definition of an
ethnic group, of the conjunction of the concepts of economic organizations,
society and culture.
To transcend the theory of acculturation and Barth's culture core,
the theoretical orientation of this dissertation will be based upon the
application of the theory of historicalmaterialism. This theory, as
found in Marx's writings, specifically for the purposes of this study
in Ih^GenianJ^^ (1970) and Pre^Capitai^^
(1964), takes the view that a societal system has two basic functions:
to reproduce itself and to produce its means of existence. In the
category of self-reproduction or the superstructure are found the modern
anthropological concepts of society and culture; and in production is
found the Marxian concept of mode of production. These two societal
categories, the superstructure and the mode of production are in a
dialectical relationship to one another. A relationship between two
entities, A and B, is called dialectical when A and B are mutually
dependable and mutually deterministic of one another. Thus, -
A ^ B U A(B)-> B(A)
The importance of the use- of the term dialectical relationship,
as opposed to functional or reciprocal relationship, is that it implies
both synchronic and diachronic dimensions. In the case of a societal ■
system, the mode of production and the superstructure are at any one
point functionally congruent and potentially incongruent with one
another. When, for external or internal reasons one of these categories
suffers a modification in its structure it will cause a deterministic
influence upon the other.
It is well known that Marx placed primary stress upon the role of
the mode of production as the determinant of the suprestructure and
therefore of the societal system in general. What is not so well discerned
is that Marx's concept of the mode of production involves much more than
technological forces or the economy, in the bourgeois sense of the word
(cf. Godelier 1977). The recent debate between Marxist and non-Marxist
anthropologists (cf. Berger 1976 with commentators; Godelier 1977;
Legros 1977; Terray 1972) on the concept and relevance of the mode of
production for anthropological studies is taken into account for the
definition of the mode of production used here.
The mode of production is a category constituted by all the factors
that are structurally linked to each other which are concerned with the
material production and maintenance of the societal system. The mode of
production is conceptualized on two levels: 1 ) the production forces:
natural resources, technical norms, production units (in other words,
land, capital and labor), and the level of productivity required to
maintain the socio-cul tural system at a given time; and 2) the relations
. of production: division of labor, forms of distribution and consumption,
and the relationship between production units as it refers in particular
to the distribution of goods and services. Production forces and produc-
tion relations are but two concepts that can be operational ized as
separate. However, together they form a single dialectical structure.
These factors will be further defined and operationalized in the
chapters on the Tenetehara economy. If the factors in this structure
suffer a modification, the other factors will be modified accordingly.
This causal modification might not take place immediately; in this
case there will be a time lapse in which the structure does not work as
a congruent entity. This incongruence is referred to as the contradic-
tion between the factors of the structure.
The superstructure is concerned with the biological reproduction
and the social maintenance of a societal system. It can be analyzed in
terms of various categories, such as society and culture, or social
organization, political and legal organizations, ideological organization,
and so on. The analysis of the superstructure in these forms depends on
the preference of the analyst and of course on the traditional division
of intellectual labor and academic discipline. The various subfields of
anthropology, such as social political , and cognitive are concerned ■
with the study of the superstructure.
In this dissertation I will focus on the Tenetehara mode of produc-
tion and the role it plays in bringing about the ethnic survival of the
Tenetehara. A holistic study of the ethnic survival of the Tenetehara
can only be complete with an analysis of the superstructure. Specifically
such a study should be concerned with kinship organization in its broadest
sense and with the ideological components that are most conspicuous in
furthering the cohesion of the Tenetehara social system. These components
will be dealt with here only to complete the analysis of the Tenetehara
mode Of production. They can be found in descriptive form in the work
of Wagley and Galvao (1949).
Given this brief conceptualization of a societal system as a
structure formed by the dialetics of the mode of production and the super-
structure, I now return to a discussion on the theoretical basis of the
ethnic survival of the Tenetehara. This study begins with the fact
that the Tenetehara have survived ethnically through the 350 years of
contact with the Brazilian society. It assumes the presence of the
minimal components of an ethnic group, i.e., the rules of descent,
mechanisms of incorporation and cohesion, and a material base of produc-
tion. The question is how have the Tenetehara survived when so many
other similar ethnic groups have become extinct? This will be answered
in empirical terms throughout this dissertation. Here I am concerned
with formulating a theory for the ethnic survival of the Tenetehara '
which can be extended to explain both the survival and the extinction
of other Indian societies in Brazil.
In the above critical discussion of the acculturation theory, it
was seen that the contact relationship between a Western society and a
non-Western society is invariably one of superordination-subordination .
The superordinate society is seen as effecting the greatest amount of
modification on the subordinate society, the effect tending to be of
ultimate incorporation of the latter by the former. The subordinate
society is seen as a passive entity, absorbing cultural traits and
adapting itself to the powerful demands of the superordinate society.
On the face of it, the historical records indicate that this process of
■adaptation indeed happened. On the other hand, the records also show
that many other such subordinate societies became extinct. Presumably
this extinction could be explained either because the societies did
not adapt and therefore were destroyed, or because they adapted only
too well to the point of losing their ethnic identification. Such a
theory of social adaptation which stands by itself and is also implied
in the theory of acculturation explains survival or extinction as a post'
factum observation and by the terms of its very meaning. Thus in one
case, one can say that a society survived because it adapted; in another,
a society did not survive because it did not adapt; and in still another,
a society did not survive because it adapted. Logically, there is still
another possibility which is that a society might survive because it
did not adapt.
The logical error of adaptation theory is that it assumes a functional
relationship between two entities, for example, culture and environment.
- two cultures in mutual relationship to one another, or a culture trait
within a larger culture system. Adaptation theory works for the explan-
ation Of interaction systems which are static or which change only due
to extraneous factors. In regard to the important question of the
relation between a culture and its environment, I use the term adapta- '
tion to represent this relation, but I should qualify .y use of this
term from its current use in the literature of anthropological ecology
(cf. Rappaport 1968:3-5; Harris 1974).
Adaptation as used here means that a culture at a particular time
is utilizing the natural resources, or the environment, available for
its mode of production. The environment places a constraint on the
productivity of the mode of production of a culture, but it does not
determine a particular kind of mode of production in the absolute sense.
The mode of production is partly determined by the environment itself
and partly by other socio-historical circumstances, such as the evoTu-
tionary level of the culture and of the other cultures in contact with
it, and the nature of this contact (cf, Marx 1964:82). The factors of
a mode of production, including the forms of utilization of a particular
environment, as stated previously, together with the forms of social
organization of a culture and its ideological superstructure and the
kinds of interaction of this culture with neighboring cultures form a
system of interaction, a dynamic entity of parts in dialectical relation-
ship with one another, and therefore carrying in themselves the instability
which results in change. This system should not be analyzed as an ecos:^.
i.e., a biological system of interaction, because the human element is
different from the other biological elements. This difference lies in the
fact that man is a self-conscious animal, to put it in philosophical terms.
and that he relates to the environment in a different way. than do
animals and plants. Man procures from the environment not only his
basic necessities, as an animal, but also the necessities that create
culture. And as man creates culture and in it a division of labor
(initially only along sex or age lines), a higher productivity, an
exchange system, the fragmentation of the society in families, lineages,
political groups, etc., he creates a system of inherent contradictions.
A major contradiction that exists in culture and that propels change is
that between the mode of production and the social organization. When
one of these factors change, either for "accidental" reasons or because
of rearrangements of its components in order to resolve an internal
contradiction, then it causes a change in the other factor and then a
new rearrangement of these two factors as a system. An "accidental"
type of reason can be of the order of an increase in population of the
culture, which will then increase the need for a change in the mode of
production, or can be an historical event, such as a new contact with,
a different culture, as in the case of the arrival of the Europeans.
In short, a culture is never completely adapted to its environment,
whether physical or social environment, because it carries the contra-
dictions in the arrangement of the factors that make it a system. One
can, however, speak of adaptation to an environment at a given period
of time, provided that it be understood that this adaptation is not of
the same order as biological adaptation.
In regard to the use of adaptation theory to study an historical
system of interaction between a superordinate and a subordinate society,
one finds similar objections as in the study of the relationship between
culture and environment. Such an historical study of adaptation would •
lead to the following methodological positions: first, that the rela-
tionship of superordination/subordination is conceptualized only in
regard to the system of interaction as a whole, not to the particular
characteristics of each society. If the superordinate society appro-
priates half the resources from the subordinate society, thereby causing
the loss of half its population, this process should be seen only in
terms of the resiliency of this hal f, population to continue in this
relationship, not in terms of the human effects of this loss for the
subordinate society. This is essentially a mechanistic and anti-humanistic
approach, and therefore rejected by this author. Second, the theory of
adaptation needs to provide ^_^nor± the catalystic elements of change
within the contact relationship between two societies. In the biological
theory of evolution, the catalyst element of change is mutation, which
is essentially a category determined a posteriori . In studies of cul-
tural adaptation, change catalysts are either assumed, in a deus-ex-
machina manner, or brought in from outside the system of interaction.
In short, adaptation theory is merely an explanatory device that because
of its functionalism lacks the theoretical basis to explain internal
The type of relationship conceptualized in this study for the
contact interaction between Tenetehara and Brazilians is a dialectical
one. The Tenetehara ethnic group, as the subordinate societal system,
is seen as being in the constant process of change in order to accomodate
itself to the Brazilian society and the changes that take place within
it. However, this process of change, or progressive restructuring of their
society and culture in general, proceeds from the basis of the Tenetehara
culture at any given point. The character of this culture imposes certain
constraints on the way it will be able to change as well as on the-
character of the contact with the Brazilian society itself. Thus the
Tenetehara are not merely a passive entity receiving the impact of the
dominant Brazilian society; they too react to this impact in both . '
aggressive and non-aggressive ways because they constitute a system with
mechanisms to perpetuate the interests and purposes of the membership.
Moreover, even when no overt contradictions appear to exist between
Tenetehara and Brazilians, the very relationship of superordination/ '
subordination stands in itself as a contradiction. This contradiction
will be operationalized throughout this dissertation according to the
types of relationship (slavery, serfdom, patron-cl ientship) that have
existed throughout the history of contact.
Previous studies of Indian-Brazilian interethnic relations, such
as Murphy's (1960), Oliveira's (1972), and Ribeiro's (1970), argue
convincingly that these relations have historically been economic rela-
tions. In terms of this study, these relations pertain to the conjunc-
tion of two different modes of production. The Brazilian mode of produc-
tion in rural Maranha~o has been until very recently one that could be
called a peasant mode of production. It is based on agricultural ,
extractive, and cattle production intended both for self-consumption
and for an external market. The external market is the most important
catalyst of change, causing both the intensification and decline of
production of a particular commodity and the shift towards production
of other commodities. This is the well recognized phenomenon of "boom
and bust" of the Brazilian economic history.
In a comparative study of the ethnic survival of Brazilian Indians,
Ribeiro (1970) analyzed the rate of survival of these ethnic groups in
terms of the contact relationship between the ethnic groups and the
economies of various regions of Brazil. He called these economies
and their social forms "expansion frontiers" ( frentes de expan.ao K and
characterized them according to the type of commodity produced. He
recognized three main expansion frontiers: the agricultural, the pastoral,
and the extractive. Each of these frontiers imposes a certain type of
relationship on the ethnic group it encounters. Each type of relation-
ship causes a lesser or higher degree of ethnic extinction of the ethnic
groups involved. According to Ribeiro's data, the agricultural frontier
is the most detrimental to the ethnic groups involved, causing the
extinction of 60 percent of these groups; the extractive frontier
follows with 45.7 percent of ethnic group extinction; and the pastoral
economy with 30.2 percent. The agricultural economy is said to be more
detrimental because of the demand for lands and labor of the ethnic
groups. The extractive frontier demands only labor and access to certain
commodity resources, and the pastoral frontier demands only land.
Ribeiro's data clearly prove his theory, but the functional correlation
of rate of extinction/expansion frontier seems too general to be taken
at face value. What exactly should be the difference between a frontier
that demands labor and land (the agricultural) and one that demands only
land (the pastoral)? In both instances it is the land factor which
actually demands the displacement of the ethnic groups involved. In
the agricultural frontiers, labor is required and thus, there may be an
implicit tendency in this type of frontier to destroy the population
basis of an ethnic group by their labor recruitment in compulsory,
indentured, or other forms. On the other hand, the need for land might
be proportionately low, so that the ethnic groups might survive by
providing only their labor products, not their labor per se . The
pastoral economy needs no extra labor, but only extensive tracts of
land, and so the ethnic group will either be destroyed or relegated to
certain undesirable areas. In both cases, therefore, there is a logical
possibility for either extinction or survival.
Hence, Ribeiro's thesis must be reinterpreted in the light not of
the type of commodity produced in an expansion frontier, but in the
kind of mode of production of this frontier. This should involve the
intensity of production, through the mechanisms of the market system,
the types of production units (whether by independent peasants, landless
peasants, large landowners, etc.), and the degree of intensity of the
need for both land and labor. In addition, consideration should also
be given to the type of mode of production and the superstructure of the
ethnic group involved. Hunting and gathering ethnic groups, for example,
seem to have a far greater resiliency to survival in agricultural
frontiers that demand relatively small amounts of land, than the more
permanent, agricultural groups. Indeed, in the case of the Guaja
Indians of Western Maranhao and the Siriono of Eastern Bolivia, it is
quite possible that they became hunters and gatherers as a way to survive.
Another example of the importance of considering the ethnic groups them- '
selves is provided by the contrast in survival between the Tenetehara
and some of the Eastern Timbira groups (cf. Nimuendaju 1946). At one
point in the nineteenth century, both these ethnic groups faced a
similar type of expansion frontier characterized by mixed farming and
cattle raising. The Tenetehara, with their flexible, fissioning type
of village formation, survived and even expanded, whereas many of the
Eastern Timbira groups, with their rigid social structure and culture
which demands a stable population for its continuation, became extinct
as separate units and were incorporated into the Brazilian peasantry.
In sum, a theory of ethnic survival must take into consideration
the character of the societal systems in interaction and the kind of
relationship that results from this interaction. This theory should
also state the basic, minimal components for the continuation of an
ethnic group, that is, the continuation of rules of descent, mechanisms
of membership incorporation, and of ideological cohesion as well as the
material basis of the ethnic group. Taking for granted that the minimal
components of the Tenetehara ethnic group are at play, this dissertation
will focus on the role of the mode of production of the Tenetehara through
their history of contact.. My thesis is that given the circumstances of
this contact, this mode of production is the main factor in keeping the
Tenetehara from becoming assimilated into the rural Brazilian mainstream.
And in the regions where the Tenetehara have become assimilated, the
process of assimilation is viewed in terms of the disintegration of the
Tenetehara mode of production.
The following chapters of this dissertation are conceptualized into
two parts. The first part (chapters IV, V and VI) is concered with an
analytical description of the historical contact of the Tenetehara and
Brazilians, that is of Tenetehara ethnohistory . The analysis of Tene-
tehara ethnohistory will focus on the contact relationship between the
Tenetehara and the various historical phases of the formation of the
Brazilian society. This contact relationship is mediated through
economic relations which I have called "trade economies." Some data
on the contact relationship between the forming Brazilian society and
other Indian groups in Maranhao will be presented in order to compare
their rate of survival with the Tenetehara.
The second part (Chapters VII, VIII and IX) will deal specifically
with the Tenetehara mode of production through- this historical contact.
It will focus both on the economic relations of the internal economy of
the Tenetehara and the relations pertaining to the various trade
economies which were the mediators of the Tenetehara and the Brazilians.
If the analysis irijoto presented here proves adequate in terms of
an explanation of why the Tenetehara continue to retain their ethnic
identification, there will loom a most important practical question as
to the future of the Tenetehara ethnic group. Although wary of predic-
tions on the Tenetehara, I will nevertheless try to argue for certain
predictable changes, based on the structural elements of the Tenetehara
mode of production, which may bring about the continuation of the
Tenetehara ethnic group. This may prove to be only a theoretical exer-
cise but it may have some practical significance for an applied
anthropology of the Tenetehara.
CHAPTER IV . ■
FORMATION OF INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS
The earliest information we have on the Tenetehara Indians is
derived from the history of the state of Maranhao and the adjacent state
of Para. In many instances the information concerning the Tenetehara
is rather scanty and indirect, and I have brought analytical perspective
to it by making careful inferences from it, helped by comparisons with
more fully documented cases which were analogous to the Tenetehara
situation. There have been no archaeological or linguistic studies to
shed light on the Tenetehara of pre-Columbian times. One or two
suggestions have been made concerning the "original" habitat of the
Tenetehara, such as that of Nimuendaju (1937:48) who believed that they
came from the state of Para or beyond to the west, but these suggestions
cannot be supported by our present knowledge of the pre-historical
migratory movements of Brazilian Indians.
Tenetehara ethnohistory , therefore, is essentially the history of
the changes and developments in their society and culture, as the
Tenetehara were brought into the sphere of influence of the forces of
colonization of the state of Maranhao. To describe changes and develop-
ments is to describe a situation at a certain point in time, and what it
became at a later point, and what brought about this new state of being.
Hence, a study of social change is a dialectical study. The dialectical
method used here is devoid of any elaboration on the philosophical
aspects of such concepts as contradictions, opposites, structural
disequilibrium, and other such terms. These concepts will be developed
in empirical terms, in the context of a set of problems which are viewed
as forming a system. I use the dialectical method to describe an
historical situation which ipso facto is not static, and which therefore
cannot be analyzed, either in the short or in the long run, by a method
that is concerned exclusively with equilibrium or adaptations.
My use of the dialectical method posits the Tenetehara as a socio-
cultural system in confrontation with the forces of colonization of
Maranhio, as another such system. Both these sytems, as social systems,
contain the inherent potential for change independent of the influences
which they exert upon one another, but it is basically the changes
that are brought forth by the contact with one another that is of
concern here. The influence which the Tenetehara had on the colonial
system is rather minimal, mainly in the area of utilization of the
environment, and it will not concern us here. The influence of the
developing colonial society on the Tenetehara, however, is the main
factor in Tenetehara ethnohistory, and therefore an analysis of colonial
society and later of the emerging Brazilian society as it affected the
Tenetehara society, will be the main concern of this chapter.
The two key analytical concepts in this chapter are, on the one hand,
the Tenetehara society brought into the sphere of influence of the
colonial society in the various stages of its history, and on the other,
the resultant Tenetehara society at the end of these historical stages.
In dialectical terms we have the historical flux of thesis (the Tenete-
hara society at a certain historical point), the antithesis (the con-
fronting colonial society at a similar historical .point), and the synthesis
(the resultant Tenetehara society). Because this is not intended to be
a history of Maranhao, the analysis of this colonial society will be
focused on the points which bear on the Tenetehara in more direct ways,
particularly its economic development, forms of labor recruitment, and
the practical consequences of its Indian policy. Furthermore, as ethno-
history, the analysis of Tenetehara socio-cul tural changes will be
described here only in general terms. The details of these changes will
be presented in the analysis of Tenetehara economy in Chapters VII, VIII
It should be stated here that I began the analysis of Tenetehara
ethnohistory after I had acquired a certain understanding of the present
day Tenetehara society through my own field work among them and the
reading of the ethnographic literature on them (Abreu 1931, Nimuendaju
1951, Snethlage 1931, Wagley and Galvao 1949, 1963, Wagley 1973).
From the present day synthesis of Tenetehara society I tried to trace
the previous thesis by looking at the antithesis and then searching
for confirmation of this thesis in the history of Maranhao. In some
cases this confirmation could not be procured in which case the solution
presented is of the order of speculation or structural inference. But
of course this method of tracing back socio-cuTtural changes was comple-
mented by tracing these changes chronologically from a given point of
reference. And it is in a chronological sequence that this chapter will
Before I proceed to analyze Tenetehara ethnohistory, a word should
be said about what the minimum requirements for the survival of Brazilian
Indian societies are. The impact of the arrival of Europeans in the
New World has been analyzed by many anthropologists before, and all of
them have recognized the effect of European diseases as having the most
detrimental effect on the peoples of the Americas (cf. Ribeiro 1970;and
Wagley and Harris 1958:15-19). The rate of population loss in the
early years of contact, before some kind of natural immunization is
acquired, determines to a large extent the future survival of Indian
groups. Only those groups that retain a minimal self-reproducing
biological unit through the many periodic epidemic outbreaks can continue
to be a separate ethnic unit. This is the most basic and minimal
requirement that determines ethnic group survival, and obviously the
Tenetehara are included here as having successfully born out the impact
of foreign diseases.
Two other factors to be overcome to ensure ethnic group survival
are miscegenation as an accul turati ve process and the loss of effective
control of land as the Indian's basic economic resource. The processes
of Indian miscegenation and appropriation of Indian lands are well
known facts in the history of Brazil, and particularly in the history
of Maranhao, where the population that came to form its society was
largely recruited from the Indian societies living in this region.
The appropriation of social capital and fixed capital from the
Indians was made necessary by the very conditions of the colonization
of Maranhao, which consisted of a small population of Portuguese colonists
practicing a mode of production which required an expanding amount of
land and a permanent large amount of labor. Land was expropriated from
the Indians by conquest followed by the effective control of it through
the establishment of sugar and tobacco plantations, population settlement,
and colonial administration. Labor was expropriated from the tribal
societies by the conquest of the societies or by war parties sent to
bring back war captives. In both cases the defeated Indians were reduced
to conditions of slavery and/or serfdom. The recruitment of labor involved
the recruitment of a population that, having lost its cultural means of
reproduction, slowly become incorporated as a member of the incipient
When these factors combined in an overwhelming way, of course, the
Indian society became extinct. The Tenetehara society managed to avoid
this whole process, and continued to reproduce itself within the confines
of group membership and the effective control of its land. There were
particular reasons for this turn of events, both having to do with the
particular characteristics of the Tenetehara as a society, and with the
socio-economic conditions of the colonization of Maranhao. Throughout
this chapter the Tenetehara situation of contact will be contrasted with
the situation of other Indian groups in Maranhao, to illustrate in
chronological steps the reasons for the survival or extinction of particular
Colonization and development are understood here as socio-economic
demographic processes, the differences between the two being merely
historical. As far as Maranhao is concerned, the former comprehends
the period dating from the early date of 1535, but more exactly from 1612
to around the time of the independence of Brazil from Portugal in 1822.
The latter follows this last date to the present times and is more or
less linked to the process of modernization. But from the perspective
of Tenetehara ethnohi story , this time span of 440 years (1535-1975)
may be divided into four consecutive periods which are characterized by
particular forms of Tenetehara-Brazi 1 ian (or Portuguese) inter-ethnic
relations. These phases are: (1) Formation of inter-ethnic relations
(1613-1755) which is subdivided in (a) phase of slavery: 1616-1653; and
• (b) phase of serfdom: 1653-1755. (2) Freedom and transition: 1755-
1840. (3) Patron-client relationship and the Provincial Indian Policy:
1840-1910. (4) The twentieth century and the role of the SPI/FUNAI:
1910-1975. The first period is the subject of the present chapter. The
later periods will be discussed in later chapters.
The Phase of Slavery (1613-1653)
The colonization of Maranhao was first attempted in 1535 by a joint
expedition organized by Joao de Barros, Ayres da Cunha, and Arvares de
Andrade (Kiemen 1954:8). These men had been given the right to set up
trading posts and colonial administration in two large tracts of land that
stretched from the Rio Branco Cape westward to the mouth of the Amazon
River. These two grants of land, or capitanias (captaincies) were part
of the first Portuguese program to colonize the area of South America
which had been partioned to Portugal by the Tordesillas Treaty of 1494.
This joint expedition was shipwrecked off the coast of Maranhao, near
the island which later became known as Sao Lu1s. This island was at that
time inhabited by the "^entio tapuia ," or non-Tupi speaking Indians, who
were reportedly unfriendly to the colonization intentions of the survivors.
Apparently many Portuguese stayed in the area and became incorporated
as Indians (Salvador 1954:134). By the early seventeenth century these
Indians had moved inland and became known as "Barbados" ("the bearded
ones"). Several political and economic difficulties barred the Portuguese
from making further attempts to colonize Maranhao until the second decade
of the seventeenth century, when control of that area was threatened by
In 1612, a French expedition founded a colony on the northwest
corner of the island of Sao luU, thus initiating the history and develop-
ment of Maranhao. By then the island was inhabited by the famous Tupinamba
Indians who had come from the coast of Pernambuco sometime in the late
sixteenth century and who had dislodged the island's previous inhabitants
(Abbeville 1945:65; Metraux 1963:98, 1927). French sailors had been
prospecting in the trade of Brazil wood and tropical exotica with the
Tupinamba of the island and of the Serra do Ibiapaba (in present day
Ceara State) for over forty years (Abbeville 1945:63). The French expe-
dition was therefore well received by the Tupinamba.
There were several French turgimons , or speakers of the Tupi language,
who were living among the Indians. These Europeans knew their customs
well, and had been promising them the arrival of powerful caraiba, or
prophets, who would teach them new ways to lead a peaceful life. The '
Tupinamba", after all, had come all the way from Pernambuco not only in
search of respite from Portuguese encroachment and enslavement, but also
in search of a physical-spiritual salvation in the "Land Without Evil"
(cf. Metraux 1950). They were also being enticed by the marvels of
iron implements and other European trinkets (Abbeville, 1945:59-60, 74ff).
Claude d 'Abbeville (1945), who was one of the four Capuchin friars
in the French expedition, describes in interesting details the way the
French set about to organize Tupinamba labor for the extraction of -Brazil
wood and the material provisioning of the colony. He also writes of how
the Tupinamba' felt about the Portuguese and about the new religion and
mores that they were expected to follow as new vassals of the King of
France (Abbeville 1945:234). For our purposes, however, it is Abbeville's .
description and account of the number of Tupinamba' villages on the island
and elsewhere 1n Maranhao that is of special interest.
In 1612 the island of Sao Luis, which has an area of 22,000 square
kilometers, contained some 27 Tupinamba villages which ranged in size
from 200-300 to 500-600 people for a total of ten to twelve thousand
people. Each village had at least one or two leaders and the larger
ones could have four or five. The leader of the largest village, one
Japiacu, was in some undetermined fashion recognized as the head leader
( morubixaua ) for this whole area. The French however, dealt with single
family leaders irrespective of sanction or consent from Japiagu, which
may indicate that area leadership or chiefdom level leadership was
nominal or at best inchoate (Abbeville 1945:58, 92, 234; cf. also
Metraux 1963, 1950, Fernandes 1963, 1970).
In Tapuitapera, to the west of the Bay of Sao Marcos which divides
the island from the mainland, there were fifteen to twenty Tupinamba
villages with a total population larger than that of the island (Abbeville
1945:148). Further westward, in the Bay of Cuma, there were just as
many Tupinamba villages, and from there to Caete (in present day Para
State) there were twenty to 24 more Tupinamba villages. Altogether
there may have been as many as 40,000 to 50,000 tupinamba along the
coast west of and including the Sao Luis island.
Abbeville (1945:149) visited several villages on the island as well
as in Tapuitapera and Cuma, and reported that these areas formed a "con-
federation" against their enemies. It seems, however, that each village
or group of villages made war on their own against other Tupinamba and non-
Tupinamba tribes. Those of Cuma are reported to have gone as far west
as the Lower Amazon, whereas those of the island fought the Tupinamba of
the Mearim and Itapecuru Rivers, and of the Serra do Ibiapaba
(Abbeville 1945:67-70, 95, 120-121).
I have briefly described the Tupinamba of Maranhao for two reasons.
First, because they were by far the largest Indian group in the region
as well as along the coast of the rest of Brazil, and they contributed
a great deal to the formation of colonial Maranhao (and Brazil in general)
both in terms of demography and culture. Second, because it is necessary
to know about the Tupinamba in order to set them apart from the Tenetehara.
Both the Tenetehara and the Tupinamba spoke very similar dialects
of the Tupi-Guarani language (Rodrigues 1965) and they may have even been
mutually intelligable. Father Antonio Vieira, the famous Jesuit who spoke
the Tupi lingua geral and was acquainted with both the Tupinamba and
Tenetehara dialects, says that the latter dialect was "more similar to that
of the carijos [a Tupi speaking tribe also known as Guarani in Southern
Brazil and Paraguay] than to any other in, Brazil" (Vieira 1925:394-395).
This is a puzzling statement for, to make ethnographic sense, we would
have to postulate that the Tenetehara were recent arrivals in Maranhao as
were the Tupinamba, the former having come a long way from Southern
Brazil, and the latter from Pernambuco. At any rate, it is clear that
both groups were very closely related linguistically which raises the
question of cultural similarities between the two.
However much the two groups shared from' the common culture in some
time past, what is of interest here is to identify some basic cultural
differences. First of all, it is postulated that the Tenetehara culture
lacked the famous cannibalism complex of the Tupinamba which included
the presence of a proto-idol-priest religion and large concentrations of
people to maintain this complex (cf. Fernandes 1963, 1970; Metraux 1963,
1950). This conclusion is somewhat contradicted by a statement made by
Vieira (1925:394) which is, however, to extrapolati ve to deserve much
credit. He stated that it was a "universal custom" of all Indian groups
in Maranhao "not to take or have names" without the ceremony of "breaking
the head of an enemy." Since breaking an enemy's head was part of the
cannibalistic ritual of the Tupinamba, this statement suggests that every
Maranhao tribe was cannibalistic, something which can not be documented
in the literature. In any event, without cannibalism, as it was known
for the Tupinamba, Tenetehara society must have lacked a series of char-
acteristics that made the Tupinamba so much the prize of Portuguese
colonization. The Tenetehara seemed to be far less numerous within a
given area, had smaller villages, and less social cohesion, or to put
this in sociological terms, less social density. This Tenetehara social
characteristic meant that their social structure was more flexible than
the Tupinamba' s, thus offering more potential for new realignments in
case of population loss, and ultimately more chances forsurvival. In
short, the Tenetehara society of the early period of contact can be '
postulated to be more or less similar to other Tupi tribes, such as the
Urubu-Kaapor (Huxley 1956; Ribeiro 1974) the Assurini (Laraia 1972)
among others, which are characterized by small villages formed by groups
of extended families, without lineages and political offices either within
the village or the supra-village levels. Such types of social organiza-
tion do not need symbolic elements such as cannibalistic rituals to keep
their members as consciously sharing the same culture.
The Tenetehara appear on the historical scene when the French began
to explore the interior of Maranhao. In 1612, they contacted "a great
nation" of Indians called the "Pinariens" on the Pindare River (Abbeville
1945:292, 295). Wagley and Galvao (1949:6) have already associated this
Indian nation with the Guajajara (Tenetehara) Indians, as they were later
called by the Portuguese. The contact with the French was rather short
and played little part in Tenetehara ethnohistory.
In 1614, the Portuguese arrived in Maranhao coming from Pernambuco
with the purpose of expelling the French, which they accomplished a few
months later. They took the island and the town of Sao Luis, and soon
began to set up Portuguese colonization. By then the system of captaincies
had been abolished and Portugal had set up a colonial administration of
more central control located in Bahia. However, because it was easier
to reach Maranhao directly from Lisbon (because of bad winds along the
northern coast of Brazil) than from Bahia, the Portuguese Crown decided
to set up a separate colonial government for Maranhao and Para. In
1621, the two small Portuguese settlements of Sao Luis and Belem along
with the territory that ranged from the present Ceara State to the Lower
Amazon became known as the State of Maranhao and Grao Para. It was
ruled by a Crown appointed Governor ( governador ) and two Captain-generals
(capitao-mor) who would preside over the town council, or camara, of
each town (Marques 1970:298). According to JoHo Francisco Lisboa, a
historian of Maranhao in the nineteenth century, the council had the
following perquisites: 1) stipulate salaries for Indians and free
workers. 2) Set up prices for craft goods, meat, salt, manioc flour,
sugar rum, cotton fabrics and thread, medicines, and products coming from
Portugal. 3) Levy taxes, organize Indian labor recruitment, fiscalize
the missions, and declare war or peace toward particular Indian tribes.
5) Create settlements and outposts of Portuguese control (Marques 1970:
168). This administrative system continued through the period of Por-
tuguese control of Brazil, although in 1772 the state had been divided
into two separate entities, Maranhao and Para (Marques 1970:345).
As soon as the Portuguese had expelled the French, and even before
the system of state government had been set up, they began to organize
the economy of the region. Land was distributed by the capitao-mor to
the nobel conquerors, who then took on the business of setting up tobacco
and sugar plantations. They needed labor to work their plantations and
to build the infrastructure of the colony, so they immediately looked
to the Tupinamba. The Tupinamba of Tapuitapera and Cuma rebelled against
this imposition, apparently as they had not been treated likewise by the
French, but they were quickly and bloodily put down by the capitao-mor,
Jeronimo de Albuquerque, and his lieutenants Bento Maciel Parente and
Mathias de Albuquerque. This represession took place either in 1616
(Marques 1970:298) or 1619 (Kiemen 1954:22), and as many as 30,000
Tupinamba are said to have been killed (Kiemen 1945:22 fn 10). In the
words of Bernardino Berredo, a governor of Maranhao between 1718 and 1722
and one of its principal colonial historians, this repression "extinguished
the last relics of the Tupinambg" (Marques 1970:298).
To be more precise, Tupinamba Indians continued to exist, albeit in
progressively smaller numbers and weaker culture. Indeed, in 1654, there
were only five villages left in the island of Sao Luis (Vieira 1925:388),'
and by the end of the century just "two or three small villages ( aldeotas )"
(Bettendorf 1910:12). In 1730, there were still three Jesuit missions
in Sao Luis, the largest of which had a population of 301 Christianized
Indians, most of whom we may presume to be descedants of Tupinamba (Leite
1943:104-106). In short, the population decline of the Tupinamba of the
island, in the space of 120 years of contact, was in the order of ninety
As far as the pre-contact population size of the Tenetehara is con-
cerned, there is no other information but that of being "a great nation."
In 1653, there were only a few (Vieira 1925:395; Moraes 1860:400 explicitly
says five) Tenetehara villages on the upper Pindare River. Considering that
the Tenetehara had suffered a bloody slave raid in 1616 and another
sometime in the 1940s--both of which had made them rather fearful of
the Portuguese (Prazeres 1891:43; Vieira 1925:395)--it is possible that
their pre-contact population may have been as large as 3,000 people. In
1730, when the Jesuits had already set up two missions for the Tenetehara,
Maracu and Sao Francisco Xavier, which may have included, at least
nominally, most of the Tenetehara villages, there were 404 and 799 people,
respectively. If these reconstruction inferences are valid, we may
conclude that the Tenetehara did not suffer nearly as much population
decline as the Tupinamba; in fact, a population loss of no more than
There are four interrelated reasons that will explain this phenomenon.
First, the Tenetehara were located far up the Pindare River, an area which
was difficult to be reached by canoe because of fallen trees which impeded
navigation. Therefore there were natural barriers to bringing Tenetehara
Indians down to a location of easy access to their Tabor by means of war
and captivity. Second, the putative small population living in small
dispersed villages did not much encourage the Portuguese colonists to make
periodic slave parties against the Tenetehara. It certainly could not
have been as lucrative as organizing expeditions against the large area
population concentrations of the Tupinamba even as far away as the
Tocantins River, or the large villages of Ge-like peoples of Eastern
Maranhao. Third, the Jesuits took an early interest in the Tenetehara
who in their turn responded to them in more trustful terms. This helped
in protecting the Tenetehara from officially sanctioned Portuguese war
parties ( entradas ) , but not unofficial war parties ( bandeiras ) or the
danger of epidemic outbreaks. Fourth, and most importantly, the territory
of the Tenetehara, even the area of the lower Pindare was not suitable,
or at least not as suitable as other areas, to the plantation system of
the Portuguese colonists. Instead, the areas of colonization were mainly
those of the lower Itapecuru and Monim Rivers where tobacco and sugar
plantations were set up, while cattle was herded in the fields ( perizes )
of the lower Mearim and in Tapuitapera (Bettendorf 1910:19; Marques 1970:63)
Other Indian tribes of Maranhao suffered various degress of population
loss and cultural disintegration during the same period. Those who lived
in the areas of plantations, despite their ferocious resiliency at being
"pacified," were progressively enslaved and/or missionized by the Jesuits.
Tribes in other areas of Maranhao were left undisturbed until the latter
half of the eighteenth century when the cattle frontier moving from
Piaui and the agricultural frontier moving up along the Mearim and
Itapecuru Rivers began to tax them for their land, as we will see later on.
From the data found in Vieira (1925), Bettendorf (1910), Moraes
(1869), Leite (1943), as well as the encyclopaedic study of the history
of Maranhao done by Marques (1970), we can reconstruct a picture (Figure 2)
of the distribution of Indian tribes in Maranhao in the seventeenth
century. Many of these tribal names cannot be identified as to linguistic
affiliation, although, following Nimuendaju (1937:58) it is likely that
many of those not identified as Tupi speakers may have been of Timbira
(Ge) affiliation. There is some question as to whether some of these
Timbira tribes were inhabiting these areas prior to 1713 or whether they
q:1 \ \ 'i'
Figure 2. Indian Groups in
^'"^^ Timbira Boundaries
* 'Jesuit Missions
5"0 /OO ISO
immigrated from Piaui after that date when the cattle frontier displaced
the many tribes of that state (Alencastre 1857:23; William Crocker,
personal communication). Immigration of other Indian tribes into Maranhao
has been recorded, as already mentioned, for the Tupinamba in the latter
half of the sixteenth century, for tribes of unknown affi 1 iation (possible
Ge or Kariri as they were said to be "nomadic") in 1698 coming from the
state of Rio Grande do Norte (Marques 1970:394), and for the Urubu-Kaapor
in the late nineteenth century coming from Para (Ribeiro 1974:33).
The distribution of these tribes, as presented in Figure 2, remained
more or less constant until the middle of the eighteenth century when, the
colonization of Maranhao experienced a new impetus. But of course it
should be borne in mind that through this early period those Indian groups
located on the coast and on to the northeast of the Itapecuru River were
in a progressive stage of acculturation. By the beginning of the
nineteenth century they had become totally acculturated as peasants
except in areas of Jesuit missions (Sao Miguel, Aldeias Altas, Sao Joao,
and three villages on the island) where there remained Indian villages
as corporate units separate from other Brazilian settlements (Spix and
Martius 1938:462, 484).
It is not clear that the French used Tupinamba labor in a compulsory
fashion, but the Portuguese took the opportunity to do so as soon as they
had taken over the area by defeating the French and their Tupinamba allies.
I have already mentioned the suppression by the Portuguese of a Tupinamba
uprising in 1616 or 1619 and the outcome of it as far as Tupinamba culture
is concerned. Regarding the Tenetehara specifically, at least two slave
parties were sent against them and they brought a certain number of
Tenetehara to live near the Portuguese under the conditions of slavery.
However, these slave parties did not destroy the basis of subsistence of
the Tenetehara. Of the 1616(9) slave party, which was led by the
notorious Indian slaver and later governor of Maranhao (1638-1641) (Marques
1970:302), Bento Maciel Parente, it is said that he went to the upper
Pindare in search of precious stones and "after a few months, he returned
without finding anything but the Guajajara [Tenetehara] Indians, against
- whom he made cruel and devastating war" (cf. Prazeres 1891:43 and also
Wagley and Galvao 1949:6). The slave party of the 1640s was organized
by one Lucena de Azevedo, capitao-mor of Para (not Maranhao) and he
naively boasted in a Tetter to the King of Portugal that he had captured
600 Tupinamba and 50 couples of the "Pinare nation" (Kiemen 1954:67 fn 58),
Confirmation of that slave party against the Tenehehara is found in
Vieira (1925:395). No futher mention of slave parties against the
Tenetehara is on record.
Slave labor in Maranhao was used in two ways. First, as domestic
labor in the private homes of the Portuguese colonists. In 1537, there
were 230 vizinhos , or propertied colonists (Kiemen 1954:57), and by
1693 their number had increased to 600. This excludes the poor, non-
propertied colonists who are reported to be quite numerous (Ferreira
1894:32). All of them, we may be certain, had Indian domestic slaves.
Second, Indians were used as field slaves to work the sugar and tobacco
plantations that sprouted in the island and in the drainage area of the
Itapecuru and Monim Rivers, and later in the 1720s on the lower Mearim
River. Sugar cane was first introduced in 1622 (Marques 1970:63) and by
1641, when the Dutch temporarily took control of Maranhao for three years,
there were five sugar mills in Maranhao and seven more were soon to come
(Marques 1970:63). For every sugar mill there was a mill owner, but
there were many more sugar cane plantation owners who were not rich
enough to set up a sugar mill of their own. There is no information on
the number of tobacco plantations but they must have been equally numer-
ous, for the role of tobacco in the economy of Maranhao in the seventeenth
century is as important as that of sugar. The Tenetehara brought to
Sao Luis and to Azevedo's plantations worked both as domestic and field
The rate of survival of Indian slave labor was extremely low.
Cultural disruption caused anomie, a psychological condition of apathy
which has been documented for other Indian societies as of most deadly
effect. Indian families were taken out of their villages to live in the
houses of the colonists, and they became part of the retinue of colonial
households. Field slaves worked under foremen--who were generally
mamelucos or assimilated mestizos (Vieira 1925:308ff )--who felt no
particular sympathy to the well being of their charges. And there were
the periodic epidemics of small pox and measles that caused the greatest
population losses among the Indians. In the seventeenth century there
were at least four big epidemics: measles in 1615 (Gaioso 1970:70) and
1663 (Marques 1970:312); small pox in 1620 (Marques 1970:298)and 1695
(Bettendorf 1910:xliii). This last one is said to have been brought by
an African slave ship; it caused the highest population losses among
aldeado Indians (those living in villages near the Portuguese and con-
trolled by them) from Sao Luis all the way to Belem.
There was, therefore, a constant need to replace the diminishing
Indian labor power, since African slave labor, which was first brought
in 1685 but was soon discontinued because of the lack of capital to pay
for them, could not replace the Indians. Replacement of slave labor was
effected by organizing war parties against Indian tribes." Such parties
were called entradas, if they were organized and sanctioned by the
colonial administration, and bandeiras , if they were organized by private
individuals. The latter were generally made up of paulistas , or people
coming from the economically depressed colony of Sao Paulo, who roamed
all over the country enslaving Indians for sale to plantations owners
in Bahia and Pernambuco, or hiring themselves to colonists who needed
experienced slavers to wipe out aggressive Indian groups near their •
Royal policy on the matter of the status of Indians was rather
inconsistent through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. According
to Kiemen (1954:162), it was stabilized in, the late 1680s. Indians had
been declared "free" by a royal order as early as 1570 (Kiemen 1954:4),
but through this and many other regimentos , or royal orders (for example,
those of 1595, 1605, 1609, 1649, 1652, 1655, 1680, and 1686; [cf. Kiemen
1954]), the proviso that parties and expeditions could be organized to
make war against Indian tribes that were threatening Portuguese property
or that had refused to accept the teaching of the Gospel, or other
conditions, such as Indians who had slaves to be sacrificed in canni-
balistic ritual, was a convenient loophole for slave parties (cf. Kiemen 1954)
Besides the Tupinamba and Tenetehara, as already mentioned, entradas
and bandeiras were sent against the Barbados, Guanares, and Aracares in
1620 (Marques 1970:105-106), the Uruatis in 1649 (Leite 1943:144),
Cahy-Cahy (or Caicais) in 1671 (Leite 1943:146), the Teremembes in 1679
(Bettendorf 1910:318; Leite 1943:161), and other tribes along the
Parnalba River (Leite 1943:164). In the eighteenth century such preda-
tion continued against the Barbados in 1719, and 1721, and 1722, after
this tribe had destroyed three sugar mills on the lower Mearim River
(Marques 1970:105-106), the Gamella in 1785 (Marques 1970:132), and the
various Timbira groups along the middle Mearim and Itapecuru Rivers
(cf. Nimuendaju 1946:4ff).
It must be noted, however, that not every defeated tribal Indian
was taken into slavery. Some of the tribes, as for instance the Barbados
and Aracares (or Aranhes) were "reduced" to live in an area near a
Portuguese settlement so that they could be recruited to work in the
colonists' plantations as they were needed. Sometime in the seventeenth
century, four villages of non-Tupi Indians (possibly "Barbados") were
brought down from the lower Grajau to the Sgo Lufs island to live in one
single village so that easy access to them be made possible (Almeida
1874:262). In the case of aldeados Indians, or Indians brought to live
in a particular village, slave labor could not be exacted from them.
In fact, they were considered as "free" Indians and their labor was to
be paid for in wages. Such wages were stipulated by the colonial
administration through the town council. Wages were paid monthly and
consisted of two yards of cloth and one iron implement in the mid-
seventeenth century (Kiemen 1954:69).
Free Indians lived in free villages, but they were administered by
a Pai dos Crista~os (Father of the Christians), a colonial office that
was filled by prelate until 1660 and then by a prelateappointed by the
Governor acting as president of the Council. Such free villages had
access to land for subsistence agricultural purposes, but they had little
time of their own to pursue these activities to a satisfactory level.
Indeed, as Vieira (1925:308ff) noted in 1653, the colonists of Maranhao
used this form of free labor as corvee labor, particularly in public
service works. Before the royal order of 1655, free Indians could be
obliged to work at least for seven months out of the year (Kiemen 1954:69)..
After 1655 they were obliged to work only two months at a time with two
months' rest in between to pursue their own activities (Kiemen 1954:96ff).
As late as 1808 (Gaioso 1970:111) descendants of the Tobajara (Tupinamb^)
and Cahy-Cahy Indians living in the former Jesuit mission of Sao Miguel
were annually recruited as corvee labor for public service jobs. Indians
of- the Franciscan and Jesuit missions of Sao Luis were particularly used
for such works throughout the colonial period. In fact, according to
a contemporary witness, enslaved Indians were better treated than free
ones because the former were like "something close to the Master" (Kiemen
Except for a brief period in the 1650s when Father Antonio Vieira,
the famous Jesuit "defendor of the Indians", was playing an important
role in the making of Indian royal policy, Indians living in the missions
of the Carmelites, Franciscans, and Jesuits, were also made available
to perform labor for the colonists and the town council. Exceptions
to that regulation were granted to particular Indian villages, as requested
by the missionaries. But in all cases, the missionaries, who were receiving
royal salaries plus travel money, were required to pay wages to the
Indians who worked for them, either privately or in their agricultural
enterprises. Theoretically, therefore, most of the Indian labor in .
Maranhao was supposed to be free, but in practice, labor conditions were
either of the slavery type or the serfdom type. The latter was the
characteristic case of mission Indians.
Serfdom Phase: 1653-1755
The year 1653 was chosen as initiating this period of Tenetehara
inter-ethnic relations because it was in that year that they were first
contacted by the Jesuit Padre Veloso who had been sent by Antonio
Vieira. But as far as other Indian tribes are concerned, mi ssionization
had started soon after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1615. The
Franciscan friars of the Order of Saint Anthony were responsible for
"reducing," or concentrating a large number of Indians, sometimes regardless
of ethnic affiliation, into aldeamentos , or mission villages. But by
1637 the Franciscans had suffered many setbacks in the process of mission-
ization and had practically given up (Kiemen 1954:44).
Meanwhile, through the 1620s and 1630s, the Jesuits, under the vigorous
administration of Padre Luis Figueira, were organizing their missionary
work in Maranhao, and pulling their strings in Lisbon, particularly through
the influence of Vieira. In 1638 they were given temporal control of
the administration of the aldeias , and were receiving salaries from the
tithes exacted from the sugar mills. From that date on the Jesuits became '
the most important and efficient missionaries in Maranhao and Para until
their expulsion from Brazil in 1758. Throughout these years they were
generally favored by the Portuguese Crown in their disputes with the
colonists, the colonial administration, and the other religious orders
The Jesuits, and probably the other religious orders as well, had
two methods of reducing Indians, to villages and establishing a mission
system among them. The first was a kind of joint enterprise between the
missionaries and the colonial administration in which these two groups
were combined to persuade a particular Indian tribe to accept the teachings
of the Gospel and be available for labor recruitment. This method
a mixture of persuasion through gift distribution and coercion. It
seemed to have been used particularly on Indian groups that did not speak
the Tupi lingua geral , as in the case of the Uruatis, Barbados, Guanares,
and Teremembes of north-central and northeast Maranhao. Such tribes were
considered rather bellicose and shifty. They were semi-nomadic, i.e.,
. although having a permanent settlement, during the dry season the group
disbanded in small units much like the Ge tribes of savannah-gallery
forest area (cf. Maybury-Lewis 1974). This cultural trait made it only
more difficult to reduce these groups in a peaceful way. In 1649, after
a few months of contact, and having attempted to reduce the Uruatis to
one settlement, three Jesuits and a lay brother were killed by them,
allegedly because a young woman had been whipped by the missionaries
(Bettendorf 1910:69). A war party was sent to punish these Indians but
somehow they eluded their pursuers. In 1719 the Guanares killed a Jesuit
who was trying to missionize them. Incidents of Jesuits being killed
by Indians are usually restricted to non-Tupi Indians.
The second method used by the Jesuits was that known as descimento .
An Indian tribe would first be contacted by an emissary of the Jesuits, '
usually a Tupi-speaki ng Indian. He would talk about the Jesuits and
the gifts that could be expected from them if the tribe accepted to come
and live in a mission. Then a Jesuit would be sent with an entourage
of mission Indians and loads of gifts to confirm these promises (Vieira
1925:395). In some cases the Indian tribe itself would send an emissary
of their own to contact the Jesuits. Finally the Jesuits would persuade
the tribe to come down to a place suitably located within easy access to
a Portuguese town or settlement, but not too close as to be in constant
contact with the colonists. In this way some Indian groups living west
of the lower Pindare River were brought down to Tapuitapera (Marques
1970:66) and later in 1755 the Tupi speaking AmanajSs of the upper Pindare-
Upper Gurupi area were persuaded to come down to a place near Sao Lu1s
(Leite 194.3:195). Of course there are countless other examples for the
state of Para.
A variation of the descimento method was applied in conjunction with
the colonial administration. In this case the Jesuits acted as ambassadors
for the colonists, and the result of this combination was rather efficient.
In the 1660s, in three entradas that were joined by Jesuits (one of which
included Vieira), over 3,000 free Indians had been persuaded to come with
them and live near the town of Belem, and 1,800 Indians had been taken
as slaves to the same location (Kiemen 1954:114). At least 2,000 of these
Indians were Tupinamba from the Tocantins River (Vieira 1925:554-555).
These free Indians were placed inaldeiasto be Christianized and to
serve as free laborers for the colonists.
It was by the method of descimento that the Jesuits persuaded a
group of Tenetehara from the upper Pindare River to come and live in a
new mission on the lower Pindare River. The Tenetehara were already
known by the Portuguese of Maranhao from two previous slave parties, and
there were some Tenetehara living in S~ao Lui's. A Tenetehara group was
sent back to their territory to announce the arrival of the Jesuits in
a few months' time. Padre Vieira then sent Padre Veloso with another
group of Indians, including some more Tenetehara, to the upper Pindare,
a journey which took 34 days by canoe and six more days on foot through
the forest of the Pindare. When Padre Veloso arrived in a Tenetehara
village he found that it was practically deserted, most of the people
having fled into the forest for fear of the Abare (A Tenetehara corruption
of the Portuguese name Abade, or Abbot). By dint of persuasion, gift
distribution, and the promise that the Tenetehara would not be recruited
by the Portuguese to work in the plantations for at least two years,
as the law prescribed (Southey T970, vol. 111:370), 70 Tenetehara were
brought down to a place on the lower Pindar^ called Itaquy, which was
located about 360 kilometers (60 leagues) upriver from Sao Lufs.
In addition to their fear of colonists, the Tenetehara were also
afraid of attacks from other Indian tribes, as they were outside their
own territory. The Itaquy mission was therefore short-lived as the
Tenetehara kept running away back to their territory on the upper Pindare.
A few years later they were moved further downriver to Cajuipe. The
Jesuits kept trying to recruit more Tenetehara from a place called Capytiba,
probably on the upper Pindare. In 1673, the Cajuipe mission was attacked
by unnamed Indians, and it took special military help from Sao Lufs to
defend it. Finally, in 1683, with over 200 Tenetehara, this mission was
transfered to Maracu, a place on the shores of an ox-bow lake on the lower
Pindare. At one point in the 1680s, for unknown reasons, the Jesuits
tried once again to move this mission, this time to the Monim River near '
Portuguese settlements, but most of the Tenetehara refused to go. Some
that did go tried to return to Maracu, and on the way back nine of them
were killed by another Indian group (Bettendorf 1910:80, 81, 83, 271,
456, 468-9, 505, 568; Vieira 1925:392, 394ff; Leite 1943:186, 188;
Moraes 1860:400-1, 408-415).
The Maracu mission was located on the fringes of the swampy fields,
or fienze^ of the Baixada Maranhense (the draineage area of the Pindare,
Grajau, Mearim, Itapecuru, Monlm, and other minor rivers) and the Amazonic
forest. Thus it provided, in Vieira's words, "the best pasture land in
Maranh~ao" (Kiemen 1954:113 fn 111), on which to raise cattle, as well
as plenty of forest land to grow sugar cane. The Jesuits capitalized
on these resources with the efficiency that is well known of them, so
much so that by 1730, Maracu had 15,600 cattle, 500 horses and burroes,
and a prosperous sugar mill as well as the available labor of 440
Tenetehara (Leite 1943:188).
Throughout its 72 years of existence the Maracu mission prospered
above all other Jesuit missions in Maranhao, much to the envy of the
colonists of the Itapecuru and Monim area, who from time to time tried
to make the Jesuits defer to them the right to recruit Tenetehara labor
from that mission. In 1712, there came a royal order for the Jesuits
to share Tenetehara labor with the inhabitants of Icatu on the Monim
River. This order was in fact a reiteration of a similar order which
had been issued a few years before, and which the Jesuits had protested.
Finally, in 1725, a royal order prohibited the colonists from attempting
to recruit Tenetehara labor, except in case of war (Anais 1948, Vol 67:101,
The colonists, however, continued to keep a close eye on the Jesuits
and their relations with the Tenetehara. In 1730, seven years after a
new Jesuit mission was set up among the Tenetehara of the upper Pindare,
a royal order granted the Jesuits permission to move this new mission,
called S?o Francisco Xavier, five days down the upper Pindare to a place
near the confluence of the Caru River. But the permission specified that
the Jesuits were not allowed to use Tenetehara labor as they had been
doing in their sugar mill on Maracu (Anais 1948, Vol 67:237-238).
The organization of Tenetehara life in the mission has not been
described by the Jesuit chroniclers of the colonial times (Antonio
Vieira, Joao Felipe Bettendorf, and Jose de Moraes), nor by the recent
Jesuit and Franciscan historians (Serafim Leite and Mathias Kiemen).
But following the anthropologist Elman Service (1974:10) who reviewed
the literature on the Jesuit mission system of Paraguayan, and the hi storian
C. R. Boxer (1962:281-284) who did the same for other Jesuit missions
in Brazil, we can feel confident in assuming that a mission as prosperous
as Maracu had a type of schedule and discipline similar to the Paraguayan
and other Brazilian missions. There were hours to study the catechism,
hours for prayer, hours for recreational activities, and hours for work.
Bettendorf (1910:272) says that recreational activities were mainly of
a religious nature, as taught by the Jesuits. In one of these feasts,
the Tenetehara are described carrying the image of the Virgin about the
village while singing: " Tupa cy angaturana, Santa Maria Christo Yara ,"
which means approximately, "Tupa my step-father. Lord Christ and Saint
Ma ry . "
In terms of labor organization, Furtado (1963:75) has analyzed Jesuit
labor practices in another part of the Amazon area as essentially of
the "servitude" type. By that he means that the Jesuits had the Indians '
working in the extraction of forest products (vanilla, cacao, and other
"hinterland drugs") for in exchange for a few "small objects." In the
case of the Tenetehara in Maranhao where such hinterland drugs -were
lacking, but where there were sugar cane plantations, a sugar mill to
be operated, and cattle to be tended, it is likely that Tenetehara labor
was organized in more efficient terms, i.e., by rules of a strict schedule
and clear cut tasks allocated to particular individuals. I have chosen
to liken this type of labor organization to the serfdom type. By that
it is meant a system of labor organization in which the laborers work
for their patrons as part of their social obligations rather than as
free individuals engaged in economic transactions. There was no cash
payment involved, but instead, probably a sytem of credit payment which
was kept by the Jesuits until the time when 'the Tenetehara laborer was
in need of it. By the law of 1655, those free Indians who were recruited
to work in plantations were paid in a similar way: they were paid before
leaving their villages and the money was kept in a box, one key to which
was kept by the village administrator (Jesuit or secular, as the case
may be), and the other by the appointed head of the village (Kiemen
1954:96ff). On their return from work they were given their wages, in
commodities as already mentioned.
Although a serf laborer is not allowed to share in the profits of
his master's enterprises, in this case cattle and sugar, he is allowed
to own part of his labor's products, in this case, the products of
agriculture, hunting, and fishing. But even here the Tenetehara were
expected to furnish the Jesuits with meat and fish without any recompen-
sation. Work done for the general good of the mission, such as in the
building of the missionaries' residence, the church and school, was also
done for no payment (Kiemen 1954:110).
The Tenetehara were not totally isolated from contact with the
colonists of other areas of MaranhSo. At least they met in SSo Luts
when the Tenetehara would take beef cattle from Maracu to be sold in the
market of Sao Luis (Moraes 1860:415). However, there is no indication
that through this contact and by virtue of the fact that the Tenetehara
were given the responsibility of moving goods to a market, the Tenetehara
ever acquired the ability to become traders or brokers, or any other
skin that would raise them above the level of serf laborers and sub-
sistence oriented Indians. ' '
The fact that the Jesuits kept the Tenetehara and many other Indian
groups in their missions away from contact with civilization and in
ignorance of the "arts of civilization," has been charged against them
by many Brazilian historians, notably Caio Prado, Jr. (Prado 1967:98-101)
as being a great impediment to the colonization of Maranhao and Para,
and particularly the integration of the Indians in the colonial society.
In my opinion, this is an incorrect analysis of the economic situation
in these areas. First, I have already presented cases in which the
Jesuits actually helped the colonists in bringing Indians into the
colonial sphere of influence. Second, as Kiemen (1954) has shown, the
Jesuits made a series of consessions to the colonists that allowed for
almost full utilization of Indian labor from their missions. Third, in
areas where the economy was vigorous and prosperous the Jesuits taught
the Indians a few important skills with which they could earn a living.
When Spix and Martius (1938, vol. 11:462) made their famous trip across
the Brazilian northeast in the second decade of the nineteenth century,
they reported that the Indians of Aldeias Altas who had been missionized
by the Jesuits until the latter's expulsion in 1758 were making a
living by manufacturing and selling pottery. It is important to note
here that the region of Aldeias ATtas (later the town of Caxias) was
an important entrepot and market for cattle fairs since the 1730s and
for cotton after the 1760s.
In short, it is my view that the Jesuits are not to be blamed for
the economic backwardness of the area and the lack of Indian integration.
The socio-economic conditions of Maranhao allowed no other course. On
the other hand, the Jesuits should not be unduly credited for the survival
of many Indian tribes because of their alleged eagerness in protecting
the Indians from colonial predation. It is true that the Jesuits abhorred
the idea and practices of enslaving peaceful Indians, but not all Indians
in general. And as to using Indian labor in conditions hardly conducive
to the improvement of their lot as free human beings, the Jesuits had no
particular qualms about it. Indeed, several of Viera's letters (ex.
Vieira 1925:279) talk about allowing the Jesuits to own slaves.
In a letter to the king of Portugal, Vieira (1925:436) makes the
suggestion that captive Indians should be allocated "firstmost to the
poorest [of the colonists]." These were non-propertied Portuguese, in
fact, Azoreans who had imigrated to Maranhao in 1619 as part of a program
set up by the Crown to colonize Maranhao. Their number on arrival is
reported as 400 families (Kiemen 1925:25), and by 1693 they constituted
what a contemporary chronicler called the "poverty" of Maranhao (Ferreira
1894:32). In the same letter Vieira further suggested that the religious
missions should not set up either tobacco or sugar cane plantations, nor
that the Indians should be obliged to work in them. This was a suggestion
that is hard to take seriously, and the Crown never ruled on the matter,
nor for that matter did the Jesuits follow Vieira's suggestion.
At any rate, Vieira obviously thought that Maranhao should be
colonized by small enterprises that used a limited amount of extra labor
beyond the family's labor capacity, not the large estates with large
retinues. Vieira's philosophy was similar to that of another Jesuit,
Padre Fernao Cardim, who lived in Bahia and was Vieira's early mentor
(Cardim 1939). This philosophy probably reflected the best of Jesuit
enlightenment at that time.
During his long life (1608-1697) Vieira had considerable personal
influence on the kings of Portugal , but it is likely that he was needed
by the Crown only inasmuch as the Crown thought his suggestions were
feasible within a general policy of colonization. The Crown needed
settlers in its colonies to produce an economy that brought wealth to
herself. And such an economy could only function in an atmosphere
in which the colonists would be subservient to the Crown. Hence, it
is argued here that the Crown heeded the Jesuits in their conflicts
with the colonists for political purposes, rather than humanitarian con-
siderations. The Jesuits were more obedient to the Crown than the
colonists who, as they became economically strong, sought to achieve
more control of the economic conditions in which they lived, including
the trade with the mother country. In fact, the Beckman rebellion of
1684 in Maranhao was directed against the Estanco (a trade monopoly
granted by the Crown to a Portuguese company which went against the
economic interests of the colonists) as much as against the Jesuits
(Kiemen 1954: 143-151ff ; Marques 1970:320-322).
The Jesuits' consciousness of being vassals of the king of Portugal
is illustrated in a letter of Vieira to the King concerning the "pacifi-
cation" of the Nheengaibas of the Marajo island. In his words, with
the pacification of these people "Para is now secured and impenetrable to
all foreign power" (Vieira 1925:568-569). The modern Franciscan historian
Kiemen (1954:170, 180, 186), whose book somewhat apologetically hails
the system of missions as the best and most feasible experiment in
dealing with the Indians, even in comparison with modern methods, acknowl-
edges the close relationship between the Portuguese Crown and the Jesuits
until the death of King Dom Joao V in 1750.
In conclusion, as far as the Indians are concerned, Jesuits, colonists,
and the Portuguese Crown should not be viewed in terms of the disputes
among and between themselves as part of their different outlooks on the
Indian, but rather as one political body with different parts that sought
to recruit the Indian natives into the lowest social class of a society
in the process of being created. They were successful inasmuch as the
economic conditions of the times allowed. If it is true that had it
not been for the Jesuits some Indian tribes still in existence would have
perished, it is equally true that many tribes would never have had been
contacted and brought into extinction, if it were not for the Jesuits'
actions. What remains as a fact is that more Indians were destroyed in
these first two phases of interethnic relations that afterwards. Indians,
after all, were the only source of labor of the colony. They were,
in the words of a later historian, "the wealth of Maranhao" (Marques
FREEDOM AND THE RISE OF PATRON-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
By the end of the phases of slavery and serfdom, the Tenetehara
numbered 1,200 people, perhaps a little more. This is the only popula-
tion figure we have for them and it comes from a Jesuit census made
in 1730 (Leite 1943:188). There probably was some population growth in
the interval between 1730 and 1755 but it was more than likely drasti-
cally counterbalanced by the disastrous smallpox epidemics of 1747-1751
(Marques 1970:337), In 1730, four hundred or so Tenetehara were living
in Maracu mission, and the rest of them in the area under the control
of Sao Francisco Xavier mission on the upper Pindar^ River.
Throughout the Jesuit period of control it is postulated that the
Tenetehara of the two missions were in contact with each other. This
contact was not merely in the form of occasional meetings between
Tenetehara men who paddled the Jesuit canoes up and down the Pindar^,
but actually a permanent contact that involved ties of kinship. The
Sao Francisco Xavier mission was probably a simple outpost of Jesuit
control, not a full-fledged socio-economic operation as was Maracu,
because its terrain was not suitable to either sugar cane plantations
or cattle breeding. That it in fact existed is confirmed by a report
of a German missionary, Father Winckler, who found some pieces of brass
candle holders and other such paraphernalia in 1860 (Marques 1970:184).
^Boxer 1962:291 states that these epidemics took place between 1743
It is difficult to assess the lasting influence of the Jesuits on
Tenetehara culture. At the very least the Tenetehara acquired the belief
in a Superior Being, called Tupa in the lingua geral and Tupan ^ in Tene-
tehara, as part of their cosmology and religious belief system. However,
Tupa was never incorporated in Tenetehara mythology. The belief in
saints, Catholic ritual, and such other things was quickly forgotten.
Changes in the Tenetehara social organization, however much they actually
occurred within the mission village system of serfdom, were not of long
duration once the mission system was ended. Certainly the characteris-
tics of post-Jesuitic Tenetehara social organization can be said to have
been formed more as an adaptation to the contact situation with the
colonists in the seventeenth century than from earlier Jesuitic influence.
By and large, the significant influences on Tenetehara society after
the Jesuit period were as much a result of the abolition of the mission
system as the onset of new developments in the economy of Maranhao.
This is a period in which the Tenetehara had a "break," so to speak, from
contact with the colonial system.
Freedom and Transitional Contact: 1755-1840
In 1755, the Portuguese Crown under the authority of its Pleni-
potentiary minister, the Marquis of Pombal , issued two important decrees.
The first was that the Indians were once again declared free regardless
of whether they were captured in "just wars" or bought as captives of
other Indian tribes. Consequently, although punitive or defensive wars
The symbol /a/ stands for a low back vowel; /y/ stands for a middle
high vowel. Other Tenetehara phonemes used here have the same quality as
the letters which represent them as used in Spanish. ■
could still be waged against aggressive Indian groups, they could no
longer be taken into captivity. Rather, conquered or "pacified" Indians
were to be located in certain areas and provided with the "means for
advancement," or integration into the colonial society. These "means
for advancement" pertained to religious indoctrination to be carried out
by secular or monastic (but not Jesuit) priests, economic betterment
by the introduction of new crops, and the teaching of crafts skills.
Political "advancement" meant learning how to organize their societies
in terms of the Portuguese system of village organization. These last
two "means" were to be taught by Portuguese skilled labor and an
officially appointed administrator of the Indian villages. A policy of
inter-marriage between Indians and the colonists was to be implemented as
much as possible. This set of regulations was known as the Diretorio of
1755 (Prado 1967:101-7).
The second royal decree cancelled the previous temporal control of
the Jesuits over their aldeias . Instead, these aldeias were to be
declared vilas , or townships, if they contained over 150 people, and
lu2ares_, or hamlets, if their populations were less than 150. The
administrative status of vila entailed a set of juridico-political
offices, such as those of vereadores (aldermen), officiais da justiga
(judges), and juiz ordinario (bailiff). Inasmuch as possible, these
vilas were to be administered by their own people, and the fact that many
actually did so indicates that the Indians were well acculturated and
knowledgeable about the Portuguese colonial system of administration.
The lugares, however, were to be regulated by a colonial administrator
in conjunction with the local Indian leadership. The custom of appointing
a native headman as capitao (captain) to mediate between his villagers and
the administrator (or colonists) had already been instituted in 1733
The result of these two royal orders was that the Jesuits found
themselves suddenly in the uncomfortable position of being merely parish
priests to their former charges. Finally, in 1758, the Jesuits were
ordered out of Maranhlo and the whole of the Portuguese kingdom, and
their properties were confiscated by the Crown and auctioned off to
colonist landowners and merchants. For the Tenetehara it meant that
from then on they were free from bondage to the Jesuits, but not quite
so free as to be able to pursue the life style of their choice. They
were expected to become civilized by adopting the legal trappings of the
colonial society, while the economic conditions for this adoption were
expected to come in due course.
Indeed by 1757 Maracu mission acquired the status of vila with the
name of Viana. In the same year, a new vila, called MonfSo, was created
in another Guajajara (Tenetehara) village located a few miles upstream
■from Viana (IBGE 1959:226-7; Leite 1943:188). Unfortunately, there are
no records of how these politico- juridical changes were effected, and how
the Tenetehara attained the status of citizen of Maranhao. However, in
economic terms, these two vilas progressed rather slowly since the
area in which they were located did not experience the economic growth
which was taking place elsewhere in Maranhao. This whole area seems
to have "vegetated" economically, exporting only salted fish and manioc
to Sao Luis until the 1820's (Lago 1872:407). On the upper Pindarg,
the mission of Sao Francisco Xavier was abolished in 1755 and did not
acquire even the status of lugar. In fact, due to several circumstances,
the Tenetehara of that area lost contact with the national society and,
in a sense, reverted back to a social organization appropriate to an
economy exclusively for subsistence.
The circumstances for this new isolation were brought about by the
social consequences of an unprecedented economic development in the
eastern half of Maranhao. In 1755, concomitant with, and perhaps as a
result of, the abolition of the temporal powers of the Jesuits, the
Portuguese Crown granted monopoly rights to the Companhia Geral do Gao
Para" e Maranhao , a joint-stock company created to promote the cultivation
and exportation of cotton in Maranhao. The valleys of the lower Mearim and
the Itapecuru Rivers, which are characterized by mata de transigao , or
transitional forest containing both some Amazon forest flora as well as
flora of savannah-like vegetation ( cerrado ) , were particularly suitable
for cotton cultivation. Moreover, since the lower course of these
rivers had .been the center of Maranhao economy from the very beginning,
there was sufficient labor and capital to further promote the area.
In 1760, four years after the creation of the Companhia, 651
a'^'^obas (15 kg. each) of cotton were exported from the port of Sao Luis.
In 1771, it had increased to 4,055 arrobas, and by 1811, 298,582 arrobas
were exported (Gaioso 1970:179) . Beginning in 1766, dry rice cultivation
was initiated in areas contiguous to cotton cultivation. Initially,
"red or brown rice" ( arroz vermelho or arroz da terra ) was the variety
planted, but since the market for which it was destined, Lisbon, preferred
"white rice" ( arroz branco ), the colonists in Maranhao were ordered in
1772 to cultivate only the latter variety (Marques 1970:91-93). From
then on rice became second only to cotton in goods exported from Maranhao
Both cotton and rice production had an enormous effect on the colon-
ization of Maranhao, east of the lower and middle Mearim River. As the
Indians had been declared free, labor was imported in the form of slaves
from Africa. No attempts at colonizing the region by small agricultural
enterprises were ever made. The first African slaves arrived in the
region in 1761 (Marques 1970:265). Slave labor progressively became
the main source of labor, particularly in the area around Cod5 on the
lower Mearim until the abolition of slavery in 1888. African slaves
changed the character of Maranhao not only in terms of demography, but
also culturally. In the first instance, according to Koster (1942:250),
by the second decade of the nineteenth century, the majority of the popula
tion of Sao Luis (said to be 12,000 people) was Black. The town of
Ribeira de Itapecuru (later Itapecuru-Mirim) in 1805, perhaps the most
prosperous non-mercantile town in Maranhao at that time, had a total
population of 13,672 people, which Gaioso (1970:164) divided in the
following way: 11,775 were slaves, 306 were fazendeiros (plantation
owners) who with their families numbered 1,606, 26 were businessmen,
174 were jornaleiros (journey-men, probably unpropertied farmers), 23
were artistas (craftsmen) and the rest were civil officials, clerics, and
beggars. These figures, if correct, were probably not representative
of other towns in the region. Nevertheless, they reflect the demographic
changes occurring in Maranhao. In terms of class structure, Gaioso
(1970:115-123) places the Black slaves above Indians but below mulatos/
mestizos , nacionais (or Creoles), and the "sons of the kingdom" ( filhos
do reino , or Portuguese-born). Economically speaking. Blacks provided
agricultural and domestic labor, mulatos were the craftsmen, Creoles
owned plantations, and the Portuguese were representatives of the Crown
and merchants of the export trade. Indians lived in their villages
producing only for subsistence, and were viewed as one of the main
barriers to the continuing development of Maranhao because they were
controlling needed land (Gaioso 1970:227).
The expropriation of land from the Indians of northeastern Maranhao
had, of course, been in progress from at least the beginning of the
eighteenth century (cf. Marques 1970:158). If the presence of Jesuits'
missions is an indication of this process of expropriation (and I believe
it is), this region was heavily missionized. There were three such
missions on the lower Itapecuru (Itapecuru, Barbados Pequenos, and
Barbados Grandes); one on the upper Itapecuru (Aldeias Altas), one on
the lower Monim (Sao Jose); one on the lower Mearim (Gamella); three
missions on Sao Luis island; and one in Tapuitapera (now called Alcan-
tara) (Azevedo 1930, Map 1), All the same, there were still many
"unpacified" Indian tribes in this economically booming region, and they
had to be brought to submission. The great majority of these Indians
were Timbira of the Ge linguistic family (cf. Nimuendaju 1946), while
the Gamella were of undetermined affiliation although having a culture
similar to the Timbira tribes (Nimuendaju 1937:66, 68-70).
In 1747, the Gamella of the lower Mearim numbered eleven villages
(Nimuendaju 1937:51). By 1796 there was only one village left. Apparently
they had been "pacified" by two expeditions in 1762 and 1785 and some of
them had been taken to Cajari (later Penalva) and Lapela, located on
the lower Mearim and lower Pindare (Marques 1970:132, 344; Gaioso 1970:
231). However, they continued to harass the colonists of the area. In
1810 they attacked Cajari and threatened to attack Viana, the former
Maracu mission (Paula Ribeiro 1841:194). It was this tribe as well as
the groups believed to be Timbira living west of the lower Pindare that
kept a constant pressure on the colonial population of that area and
virtually cordoned off the Tenetehara from contact with the colonists.
This continued until the second decade of the nineteenth century when
the Game! la were effectively brought under control. By 1820 they were
living in villages near Penalva, Mongao, and Viana (Lago 1872:396, 411,
412; Paula Ribeiro 1848:40).
The Tenetehara's loss of contact with the colonial towns of the
lower Pindare is illustrated in the literature of this period by the
absence of any mention of this tribe throughout the last half of the
eighteenth century, or the confusion of this tribe with other tribes in
the early nineteenth century. In 1810, when captain Paula Ribeiro came
to pacify the roaming Gamella of the lower Pindare, he reports that
Guajaojara ( sic ) Indians were a Timbira group that roamed between the
lower Mearim and the lower Grajau, but having their villages west of
the Pindarg (Paula Ribeiro 1841:194). Gaioso (1970) who wrote his book
during the second decade of the nineteenth century, never mentions the
Tenetehara. Lago (1872:412-413, 421), who visited the area of the lower
Pindare in 1820, mentions the Tenetehara only as "savages" "who are of
the worst kind" roaming between the Pindare and the lower Grajau Rivers
and on the Mearim River. It seems clear that none of these chroniclers
saw a Tenetehara Indian, except those living in towns.
The Tenetehara of Viana and Mongao had become relatively integrated
into the national society. Lago (1872:407, 412) reports that Viana had
a population of 843 souls of whom 400 were Indians "already civilized
and obedient to our laws." Mongao is said to have had 90 souls of whom
40 were civilized Indians. Whereas he specifically mentions the name
Gamella for the Indians living near these towns, the name Guajajara
(Tenetehara) is not mentioned. Paula Ribeiro and Gaioso also do not
refer to these civilized Indians as Guajajara. Clearly, then, the Tene-
tehara of these towns had become assimilated to the point of having lost
contact with their "savage" brothers living upstream on the upper Pindare.
They may even have lost their native language.
Indians and the Economic Frontiers
Beginning in the nineteenth century, the Indians of Maranhao were
categorized as one of three types, according to the degree of contact .
and integration with the national society. Gaioso (1970:119-120, 227, 110)
implicitly recognized the following distinctions, even though he had
placed Indians in general in one social class, but it was Lago (1872:411)
who distinguished Indians in this way: (1) "civilized" Indians who
"observe our laws, habits and custom"; (2) "domestic" Indians who live
in villages, keep their customs, are agriculturalists, but lack "skills"
( habilidades ) ; and (3) "savage" Indians who are nomads and hostile.
Progressively, this first category was abolished, as "civilized" Indians
became peasants, but the other two remained in use' until the creation of
the Indian Protection Service (SPI) in 1910.
By the 1820s, most tribes of Maranhao had been brought under the
control of the colonial and then provincial authorities, at least to the
point of precluding aggressive behavior toward the colonists. There are
only two or three cases of Indian groups attacking Brazilian settlements
after that decade. This control had been brought about by planned warfare,
such as Paula Ribeiro's expedition against the Gamella, as already cited,
and his and Lieut. Col. Francisco Morais' expeditions against the Timbira
tribes of southcentral Maranhao (cf. Marques 1970:80; Nimuendaju 1946).
It was also the result of the colonization process in the areas of rice
and cotton and in the cattle region of the upper Itapecuru and scattered
savannah pockets in northeast Maranhao.
Darcy Ribeiro (1970), using a large body of data in his study of
the extinction of Indian tribes in Brazil between 1900 and 1957, demon-
strated the differential damaging effects brought upon Indian groups by
agricultural versus cattle frontiers. His conclusions that the former
frontier destroyed more Indian tribes than the latter is on the whole
correct, but in closer view of particular cases, these conclusions call
for refinement. To begin with, both types of frontier situations demand
the land of the Indians. The cattle raising frontier needs little
labor, but on the agricultural frontier, Indian labor can be used, if
the population of colonizers is not large enough to satisfy the require-
ments of the outside market. Thus Indian groups have a chance of survival
provided that their labor is used in the context of their own mode of
production, not in a mode of production that leads to socio-cul tural
disruption. When their own mode of production is preserved, the Indian
economy can be linked to the colonists' economy through the medium of
a trade economy.
For a trade economy to take place, of course, the colonists must
be in need of goods which the Indians can provide. These goods can be
either food staples which the colonizers, busy with other pursuits such
as the production of cotton and rice for export, may not produce in
sufficient amounts, or extractive goods, such as skins and forest products
which the Indians may have an advantage in procuring. Labor can be a
commodity in a trade economy, but it must be effected under special condi-
tions so that the Indian society does not lose social cohesion. If a
trade economy does not materialize, then there is little chance that the
Indian group will survive for the lands will be taken and their labor
will be sought with disregard for their socio-cultural cohesion.
As stated above, the cattle frontier, with its labor-extensive mode
of production and its use of vast tracts of land does not need Indian
labor, and consequently Indian tribes are wiped out, or at best relegated
to reservations. This was the case of the Indians of the State of Piaui
in the eighteenth century. In Maranhao, the majority of the savannah
Timbira groups living on the cattle frontier were also wiped out, but
the Canella (Ramkokamekra and Apanyekra), the Western Gavioes, and the
Krikati were spared, basically because their lands were bypassed by the
cattle frontier. As to the forest Timbira groups living on the agri-
cultural frontier, none survived this contact situation. They apparently
were unable to adjust their socio-economic organization sufficiently
to create a trade economy with the colonizers. By the end of the nine-
teenth century, there remained only a few families of formerly large
forest Timbira groups.
Thus Ribeiro's theory so far seems correct. The exception that
leads us to refine it is the Tenetehara Indians. As they moved closer
to this agricultural frontier, they were able to relate with the colonizers
through a trade economy, which not only provided a buffer against large-
scale disruptive labor recruitment but also allowed the Tenetehara to
expand territorially and demographical ly. This process will be demon-
strated in the following section.
The Period of Patron-Client Relationships: 1840-1910
This historical period begins with the re-establishment of interethnic
relations between the Tenetehara and the newly independent Brazilian natian.
These relations are characterized in general by the mediation of a trade
economy. In fact, two kinds of trade economies, one based on the sale
of agricultural products, and the other on extractive forest products
took form. The anlysis of these trade economies will be carried out in
detail in Chapter VIII. What is of interest here is how these trade
economies brought the Tenetehara into social relations with the Brazilians,
and what the consequences of these relations were.
As an analytical concept, the term patron-client relationship is
used here to represent the social relations between Tenetehara and
Brazilians during this period. This term designates a type of social
relation whose first principle is one of ascribed inegal itarianism. The
Brazilians always relate to the Tenetehara from a superordinate position
on the basis that they are superior politically and economically.
Conversely, the Tenetehara relate to the Brazilians as inferiors to
superiors. Economic superiority means here that the Tenetehara are more
dependent on the goods they obtain in trading with the Brazilians than
the other way around. Tenetehara trade goods are not crucial to Brazil-
ians because they can be obtained by the Brazilians themselves; but in
practice, because of the availability of Indian labor, the Brazilians
rely on the Tenetehara for the acquisition of such commodities. On the
other hand, only the Brazilians can furnish the Tenetehara with the kinds
of manufactured goods that they need and cannot themselves produce.
Political superiority is used in the sense that the Brazilians have the
political power through which they can manipulate the Indians into
submission. Such manipulations can take the form of missionary efforts
to make them Christians, the organization of programs in their villages
for the purpose of "civilizing" them, and even in threats to take away
their lands, their means of livelihood, or their children.
More specifically the patron-client relationship is a relation between
a Brazilian trade, store owner, or landowner, and a Tenetehara man. The
Brazilian is the patron ( patrao ) who sets up a socioeconomic relationship
with his client, the Tenetehara, in such a way that they both are bound
to each other in a system of rights and duties. The patron has the right
of access to the economi c production intended for trade of his client, as
well as, by virtue of the economic superiority of his society, to fix
the prices for the goods which he buys and sells to his client. The
patrao has the obligation to provide credit to his client even during
the season in which the client's trade production is sparse or nil. The
client, too, has the right to demand credit from his patron, and the
obligation to buy from and sell to him exclusively. It should be stated
here that this relationship seldom takes the form of fictive kinship ties
(the compadresco system) between a Tenetehara and a Brazilian. In those
few cases when Indians enter into the compadresco relationship, it is formed
with a simple Brazilian peasant rather than a patrao.
The Provincial Indian Policy System: 1840-1889
In addition to the institution of patron-client relationship operating
through the trade economies, the Tenetehara related to the Brazilian
society through the direct mediation of the provincial government. Brazil,
of course, had become independent of Portugal in 1822, and Maranhao was
now a province of the Brazilian empire. Through the first 23 years of
independence, Brazil had retained the former Portuguese Indian policy
which had been articulated in a Royal Letter of 1808. This policy con- '
sidered the aldeado Indians, i.e., Indians living in peaceful relations
with the national society, as "useful vassals . . . who are subject to
the sweet yoke of the laws," but for those Indians who were aggressive
(" anthropophaqos ," literally "cannibals," in the terms of the Letter),
offensive wars should be carried out to bring them to submission and even
a ten-year slave period (cf. Moreira 1967:177). Such a proviso had been
used against several Indian tribes such as the Timbira of Maranhao,
the Botocudos of Espirito Santo, and the Kaingang of Southern Brazil
(cf. Moreira 1957, 1971). It was only in 1845 that an imperial
decree was promulgated that prohibited, for the first time in Brazilian
history, the organization of war parties against any kind of Indian tribe.
That this legal injunction was not followed in practice where circumstances
called for has been demonstrated by Moreira (1967, 1971).
The Decree of 1845 set up a system, called the directory ( diretoria ).
to administrate the affairs of . the Indians, and it remained in operation
until the fall of the monarchical regime in 1889, The purpose of the
system was to integrate the Indians into the national society by providing
them with the proper means to become civilized. The actual administration
of the system was to be in the hands of the provincial governments, which
were given a yearly budget of 2$000:000 (two million rei s , the Brazilian
currency of the times), later decreased to 1$000:000 (Marques 1970:206).
The president of each province would appoint a Director-General for the
Indians ( Diretor Geral dos Indios ) with the military title of brigadier.
He in turn would appoint local directors ( diretores parciais ) , with the
title of lieutenant-colonel, for every Indian village which he could
bring into his sphere of influence. This local administrative unit
was called the local directory ( directoria parcial ) . A treasurer, a
steward (almoxarife) , and a surgeon, were to be appointed for the most
important villages, whereas remote villages should benefit from the presence
of a missionary. The duties of the local directors, as the upholders of
imperial policy, were to: (1) protect the Indians' rights to their land;
(2) care for the foundation, tranquility, and development of Indian
villages; (3) provide the Indians with civil, religious, and artistic
instruction; (4) fiscalize and make use of the income of the villages
"according to governmental policy" (Araripe 1958:64-66). The local
directors also appointed the headmen of Indian villages who received
the miliatry title of capitSo, a custom that, as already noted, started
in 1733, and which has been continued to the present time by FUNAI.
Having started in 1845, there were at least 14 local directories
by 1858. Seven of these directories may have been Tenetehara (Relatorio
do Diretor-Geral 1858:155). In 1887 (Relatorio do Diretor-Geral 1887:
40-47) there were 24 such directories of which 12 were Tenetehara.
The directory system, in its legal and practical terms, was a system
of patron-client relationship. The local directors could and did move
villages at their convenience. The Indians had to ask permission ulti-
mately of the director-general to move their villages to another location
(Relatorio do Presidente 1854, 1856). Except for a few missionaries who
visited one or another Indian village, there was no instruction of any
sort given to the Indians. As to the "fiscalization" of village income,
the directory system was quite exploitative. In fact, most of the local
directors were involved in the trade economy as patrons to the Indians,
and what "fiscalization" amounted to was the private business of the local
directors. In any event, when fiscalization was done and reported to the
provincial authorities, exploitation was still the order of the day, as
an example provided below will show.
As part of the directory system, the provincial government of Maranhao
created several so-called "colonies" (colonias) for both Indians and
Brazilians. The purpose of such colonies was to form a community of farming
peasants in order to populate and exploit a particular area as well as
bring it into economic and political articulation with the provincial
government. These colonies received credit in the form of agricultural
implements and seeds. If the colonists ( colonos ) were Indians, they were
provided with an administrator who was either a missionary or a prominent
man from the nearest town.
In 1840 a Tenetehara village was organized as the first colony,
called Sao Pedro do Pindare, on the lower Pindare River about 48 kilometers
upstream from Moncao. The organizer was a lieutenant-colonel Fernando
Luis Ferreira (Ferreira 1842). With the support of the provincial
government he purchased 36 square kilometers of land from a citizen of
Mongao for 2:000$000 in order to legalize the colony (Marques 1970:206).
This village consisted of "one hundred and some" people. It is clear,
therefore, that by that date some Tenetehara had moved down to the lower
Pindarg and settled there.
In Ferreira's report he asks for a missionary to catechize and a
school to educate the Indians. He wrote against the local custom of
taking young Indians into private homes as not being conducive to the
civilization of the whole tribe. Instead, he proposed that a few Indians
be educated in a Brazilian town, in unspecified ways, and then be brought
back to influence the rest of their tribesmen. Ferreira's exposition of
the "cultural dispositions" of the Tenetehara was rather sensitive and
culturally relativistic. He was particularly sympathetic to the "mutual
cooperation" by which the Tenetehara conducted their economic affairs.
He praised the village headman ( chefe ) as hard-working and an example to
his fellow villagers.
Sao Pedro do Pindare as a Tenetehara colony was not successful. By
1849 it had incorporated several non-Tenetehara Indian families, probably
remnants of the Gamella and lower Mearim Timbira groups, and it numbered
only 120 people. In 1861 there were 76 Indians, in 1870, 44, and in
1887 only 24 Indians in the colony (Relatorio do Diretor Geral 1887:
Anexo 4). In the provincial terminology and economic sense of the word,
it was in "decadence" (Marques 1970:205). Clearly these Indians, Tenete-
hara or Timbira/Gamella had become assimilated or, and this pertains
mostly to the Tenetehara, they had returned to their villages where they
entered into relations with the national society without the supervision
of provincial authorities. Another colony, Januaria, which was set up
for the Tenetehara living on the upper Pindare River in 1854, fared
much better than SHo Pedro for its population remained constant throughout
its existence, i.e., until the end of the monarchical period in 1889.
A total of six colonies had been established for the Indians in MaranhSo
by the end of this period, five of which were for the Tenetehara. Three
of those, which had respectively 150, 517, and 149 Tenetehara in 1881
(Relatorio do Presidente 1881:109) had been founded only after 1872
(Relatorio do Presidente 1872). At various times the Tenetehara colonies
were administered by Catholic missionaries from whom they received
religious instruction rather than local landowners or ci vi 1 -mi 1 i tary
In terms of economics the provincial reports ( Relat6rios ) hardly
ever mention how the economies of these colonies were being managed,
although the Tenetehara are always spoken of as having a "strong disposi-
tion" toward work and civilized manners (Relatorio do Presidente 1854,
1855, 1859, 1883). Concerning the colony of Sio Pedro, in 1855 (RelatSrio
do Presidente 1856) inhabitted by 119 Tenetehara, there were an ironsmith
and a carpenter (apparently non-Tenetehara) , while six Tenetehara men were
engaged in sawing lumber for sale in the town that was being formed near
the colony. The rest of them planted manioc, rice, corn, and were
engaged in producing castor oil for sale. In other colonies the
Tenetehara were engaged in the trade of copaiba oil (Relatorio do Presi-
dente 1855, 1867, 1883), selling manioc flour to local townspeople
(Relatorio do Presidente 1856:68) and working in the construction of roads.
An assessment of how the economy of these colonies was "fiscal ized" by
the provincial government is candidly stated in the Relatorio do Presi-
dente of 1866. It says that the colony of Leopoldina (located on the
middle Mearim River and which was constituted of Ge speaking Crenzes and
Pobzes groups) had exported 32 sacks of cotton in November, 1865, and
16 more sacks in February, 1866, to the offices of the Director-General.
This cotton had been sold, the income from it had been computed against
the expenses of providing the colony with certain unspecified goods,
and the net profit of 1:175$217 had been "collected by the provincial
Treasury." Nothing seems to have been returned to the Indians. The
economic system operating in the colonies therefore resembles the Jesuitic
serfdom system. Under the new conditions of a continually expanding
economy of nineteenth-century Maranhao such a system was quite anachron-
istic and doomed to failure. The Indians consequently preferred to deal
directly with traders and local store owners (patrons) who were at least
less inequitable in economic transactions.
From the earliest provincial Relatorio (1852) concerning the Indians
of Maranhao (as well as from other data: IBGE 1959:86; Plagge 1858) it is
evident that the Tenetehara had expanded into areas beyond their early
habitat on the upper Pindare River, even into a new ecological zone, the
mata de trans iggp. Tenetehara migration had probably begun in the
second decade of the century, first toward the lower GrajaG River, as
can be inferred from the information found in Lago (1872:413, 421) and
Paula Ribeiro (1841:194). This migration was carried on by groups of
families which could maintain even in such small numbers as 30 or 40
people, all the socio-cul tural ingredients of a Tenetehara village life
and culture (cf. Wagley and Galvao 1949).
There are two reasons for the migration of the Tenetehara to the
lower GrajaG River and subsequently up this river and thence to the upper
Mearim River region (See Figure 3). The first is that, after an interlude
of some 70 years, the Tenetehara probably wished to enter into economic
relations with the Brazilian colonists. It is likely that during the
Jesuit period the Tenetehara had become accustomed to the use of iron
implements, particularly axes and machetes, and now they wanted to obtain
these goods on a permanent basis. In other words, the Tenetehara were
in search of a market. The second reason is that the tribes of the
lower GrajaG River had now become so small in numbers and powerless that
they could not defend their territory and so they left vast areas uninhabited
which were not too far from Brazilian settlements. The Tenetehara capit-
alized on this situation and progressively began to move up the Grajau
River. By the 1840s they had reached the region that was economically
controlled by the towns of Barra do Corda (founded in 1836) on the Mearim
River and GrajaG (founded in the 1810s) on the GrajaG River.
At the same time that they migrated towards this region of mixed
agricultural and pastoral frontier the Tenetehara were also migrating
toward the Gurupi River and into the State of Par'a, a region which was rich
in copaiba oil, an extractive product which was beginning to have export
value (Nimuendaju 1951:181 fn. 6). These contemporaneous migrations could
only be effected if the Tenetehara had a fairly large population, perhaps
as many as 2,000 people living on the upper Pindare River in about 1800. '
This population continued to increase through this expansionary phase
so that by the 1870s there were from 2,000 to 3,000 Tenetehara in the
Gurupi-Para region and 2,500 in the Barra do Corda-Grajau region (Rela-
torio do Presidente 1856). At the same time there were close to 1,000
Tenetehara living on the Pindare River (Relatorio do Presidente 1856),
their aboriginal habitat which had not been depopulated by this migration.
Thus there was a total population of about 6,000 Tenetehara as a distinct
ethnic group by the end of the nineteenth century. This is, I believe,
a conservative estimate. A liberal estimate would place the number of
Tenetehara at some 10,000 people for in the second to the last Relatorio
do Diretor-Geral (1887:40-47) the total number of Indians of Maranhao is
estimated at 25,000. The Tenetehara constituted by far the largest ■
tribe. The estimate of this Relat5rio can be contrasted with Paula
Ribeiro's estimate of 80,000 "savage" Indians and Spix and Martius'
estimate of 9,000 aldeado Indians for the second decade of the nineteenth
century. The majority of "savage" Indians was of Timbira affiliation who,
of course, had suffered high population loss in the interval between the
1810s and the 1880s (cf. Spix and Martius 1938:463 where Paula Ribeiro's
estimate is found, and page 462 for the authors' own estimate). Which-
ever estimate is closer to the truth it represents the largest population
of Tenetehara in their history as well as the largest territory occupied
by them. Throughout the nineteenth century there were periodic outbreaks
of smallpox as in 1836, 1840-42, 1846, 1855, and measles in 1839,
considering only the period to 1870 when Marques (1970:194) published
the first edition of his book. Nevertheless, the Tenetehara continued
to grow in numbers.
In terms of territory, the Tenetehara inhabited the regions of the
Gurupi, Guama, and Capim , Rivers in ParS; the upper and lower Pindare
River, the Zutiua River (a tributary of the Pindare), and the lower and
upper Grajau River. These regions were in the Amazon forest ecological
zone. The Tenetehara had also moved into the upper Mearim River region
which is part of the transitional forest zone. These regions were only
sparsely populated by Brazilians with the exception of the lower Pindare
and portions of the upper Mearim. In most of these regions, therefore,
the Tenetehara were in contact with Brazilians only through the extractive
trade economy of copaiba oil transacted through middlemen as canoe traders
(re^atoe^), who would visit Tenetehara villages to deal with them. These
canoe traders had their permanent homes in the towns of Gurupi, Vizeu, and
Carutapera-for the Tembe-Tenetehara of Para (cf. Dodt 1939:167; Brusque
1862:15; Marques 1970:178), and Mongao for those of the Pindare River
(Marques 1970:398). The Tenetehara of the upper Mearim River, however,
dealt with Brazilians in a more direct way, as they were involved in the
trade of agricultural goods, for there are no copafba trees in this
region. The town of Barra do Corda was the fulcrum of Tenetehara contact
with Brazilians in the upper Mearim River region (cf. Marques 1970:106-7
for the population, and economy of Barra do Corda in the 1860s). These
two types of trade economy will be analyzed in Chapter VIII, but we may
conclude here that the system of patron-client relationship, as defined
above, was the form of social relations between the Tenetehara and
Brazilians throughout the nineteenth century and into this century.
During this expansionary movement the Tenetehara had to defend them-
selves in their encounters with the forest Timbira tribes. Of course if
the forest Timbira tribes had not suffered the "pacification" raids of
the early 1800s and had not been "reduced" to the conditions of laborers
for the agricultural frontier, it is very likely that the Tenetehara
would not have been able to do battle successfully against these tribes.
This is because the Timbira tribes are so organized socially that aggres-
sive behavior toward outsiders is channelled more systematically and
effectively (cf. Nimuendaju 1946; Maybury-Lewi s 1974) than it is in
Tenetehara society. The Tenetehara are organized in loosely structured
extended family groups with no explicit supra-vi 1 lage ideology to give
these groups a social cohesion as strong as the Ge (Timbira) tribes.
The Tenetehara, therefore, being in a state of constant emergency, restruc-
tured their society so as to defend themselves against Timbira attacks.
The way they did that seemed to have been, if Plagge's account (1857:206),
is believable, by organizing the young and unmarried men as the warrior
group of a particular village. Plagge's account stresses that these men
slept outside their huts at night so as to protect the village from
surprise attacks. It is possible that a men's association was instituted
at that time, but it became unfunctional after the decline of Timbira
aggression, probably in the latter quarter of the century.
The result of these inimicable relations between Tenetehara and
Timbira groups was the mutual distrust that has prevailed", although in
progressively attenuated forms, to this day. The last confrontatiori
between them took place in 1901 and it was instigated by the Brazilians,
as we will shortly see.
In the Pindare and Gurupi River regions, the Tenetehara had difficulty
not only with Timbira groups but also with fugitive Black slaves who had
settled between the Pindari and Maracassume Rivers since the early IBGOs.
These settlements, called quilombos , were finally destroyed in 1853
(Marques 1970:377). The Tenetehara call Blacks by a special term,
Earana_, which contrast with the term karaiw used for other Brazilians.
The term awa_ is used for all non-Tenetehara Indians. All these terms have
derogatory connotations. It was the Urubu-Kaapor Indians who were moving
into the territory between the Pindare and Gurupi Rivers in the latter
half of the century who hindered , Tenetehara expansion most. The Urubu-Kaapor
were very aggressive warriors, and their aggression against the Tenetehara
culminated in 1918 when they attacked a Tenetehara village near the
recently founded Indian Post on the lower Pindare River (Ribeiro 1970:'
178). One other tribe with which the Tenetehara were in contact was the
Guaja Indians, a Tupi group living in small nomadic bands between the
upper Gurupi and the upper Pindare Rivers. The Guaja^ however, were
rather easy prey for the Tenetehara and other Indian tribes of the region
(cf. Brusque 1862:17; Huxley 1956:94; and personal data). Of course
the Tupi Amanajos. who lived on the upper Pindare above the Tenetehara
had by the end of the century become reduced to one single village.
It is possible to ascertain the number of Tenetehara villages at the
close of the century in only one region, that of the upper Mearim River,
in between the towns of Barra do Corda and Grajau. In terms of location
of villages we can only state that they were found either along the cited
rivers or near a lake or such permanent sources of water. In 1897 (Arquivo
da Curia 1897-1901) there were 22 Indian villages in the upper Meriam
region of which eighteen were Tenetehara with a total population of
probably 1,500. This census had been taken by Italian Capuchin friars who
in 1895 set up a colony in the form of a mission town with the purpose of
creating "a city of Indians." This mission was called Alto Alegre and
was located on the fringes of the Amazon forest and the transitional
forest, at an almost equal distance between Barra do Corda and Grajati.
The development of Alto Alegre, albeit of short duration (1895-1901),
played a most important role in the formation of Tenetehara-Brazilian
interethnic relations in both detrimental and beneficial ways for the
It should be remembered that since the proclamation of the Republic
in 1889, the previous Indian policy of directories and colonies had been
abolislied, and no other Indian policy had been instituted. Moreover, the
constitution of 1891 had separated the Church from the State, and anti-
religious, or more precisely anti-Catholic, feelings, translated through
Masonic lodges and positivistic temples, were acquiring popularity among
the educated groups in Brazil, even in such remote places as Barra do
Corda. Such feelings, as far as Indian policy is concerned, were finally
institutionalized with the creation of the Servigo de Protegao aos
tndios (SPI), in 1910 (cf.' Stauffer 1959-1960; Ribeiro 1962).
The Alto Alegre Incident and the Grajau-Barra do Carda Region
In the interval preceding 1910, however, the control of the Indians
of Maranhao was in the hands of landowners and storeowners in the patron-
client relationship or of missionary groups. The Capuchin Order of
Lombardy, Italy,- came to Maranhao in 1894, and, after receiving permission
from the provinical government to catechize and civilize the Indians of
Maranhao as well as the Brazilians, they came to Barra do Corda in 1895.
There they soon set up the Indian Institute ( Institute Indlgena ) for
- . • no
Indians of less than 14 years of age who might be persuaded to leave their j
villages. Both Tenetehara and Canella (savannah Timbira) and Matteiros
(forest Timbira) were brought in to Barra do Corda, and in 1900 there [
were 58 Indian boys in the Institute. But the Capuchins, pressured by
local Brazilians (who frightened the Indians by telling them that if
their children studied at the Institute they would eventually be drafted
by the army), and to avoid a recent decree that prohibited them from
ministering the catechism in the public schools, decided to set up another '
mission in Indian territory to protect the Indians from the influence of
these "masons." So the missionaries bought, with financial help from
the provincial government, 36 square kilometers of land near several
Tenetehara villages. The Alto Alegre mission was founded in 1897 to
lodge Indians of over 14 years of age. All of them were Tenetehara and
the majority seemed to have been actually younger than the prescribed
age. At first there were two Capuchin friars and a lay brother in charge;
and after 1897, five to seven Capuchin sisters joined the staff in Alto
Alegre. The population of the mission consisted of both Tenetehara and
Brazilians in numbers that shifted periodically from 70 to 150 people.
In the beginning there was some difficulty in attracting Indian villages
to move near Alto Alegre but soon three Tenetehara villages and apparently
one of Matteiro Indians had been persuaded to settle nearby. The
Caphuchins thought that to civilize the Indians they had to "dismember
the Indian villages and reduce them into family groups." In fact, the
sacrament of baptism, or any other sacrament, was not to be administered
to any Indians for whom "there was not moral assurance that they would
The Capuchin' friars considered these Brazilians "Christians, but
little' better than the Indians" (" christiani , poco neglionri dei cabocli ").
no longer live in their villages." Any Indian wishing to leave Alto
Alegre would have to have the permission of the friars or else incure
The friars were against polygyny as well as against marriage not
blessed by the Catholic ritual, which custom they viewed as "scandalous."
Scandalous, too, in the eyes of these Lombardian friars, was the Indian
custom of spending ^l^JioUljnUeriJn Je^^^^ („^p,^.^
entire nights, partying, dancing, and singing").
To supervise the Indians in their everyday life, the friars had a net-
work of informants, most of them Brazilians living in the mission. There
was also supervision of the young Indians in the institutes of Barra do
Carda and Alto Alegre. These institutes had regulations and a schedule
reminiscent of the Jesuit mission system. At 5:30 in the morning the
students were to wake up and wash up; at 6:00 they attended Mass and
then ate breakfast; at 7:00 they went to work; at 9:30 they had class; at
11:15 they had lunch and then recreation; at 13:00 they went back to the
classroom; at 14:00 they had a light meal and then went back to work; at
17:30 they watered (the plants or garden vegetables), swept and filled
water containers; at 18:00 they had supper and rested; at 20:30 they had
night prayer and afterwards they went to bed. Corporal punishment should
be applied after the third consecutive offense. Finally, the students
who applied themselves diligently to school and scored good grades in
their examination before the principal and the local judge were to be
rewarded with money. But once again, as with the Jesuit system, this
money would be kept by the friars until the rewardees graduated from the
• The Capuchin system seemed to be all too anachronistic for it to be
necessary to elaborate on why it could not civilize the Indians. Their
economic organization, however, seemed to have worked for they built a
sugar mill and hired a shoemaker and a smith to reside permanently in
Alto Alegre. There is no mention in their records of paying the Indians
for work in sugar cane fields or for any other tasks.
The economic success of Alto Alegre was one of the main causes of
the disruption of it in 1901, for it attracted the "envy" of the local
landowners who felt threatened by the drainage of peasants and Indians
who were moving into Alto Alegre and possibly also the "envy" of the
storeowners and citizens of Barra do Corda and GrajaG who may have felt
that Alto Alegre was challenging the predominance of these towns over
the economic life of the region. The Capuchins themselves also accused
these people of being masons, protestant sympathizers, and anti-Catholic
(cf. Nembro 1955:40-42). At any rate, through envy or hatred, it is
clear that the local Brazilians instigated the Tenetehara to destroy
An epidemic outbreak in January, 1900, which killed at least 28 out
of the 82 Indian boys living in Alto Alegre caused considerable tension
between the Indians and the friars. In addition, the imprisonment of
an important Indian, precipitated the crisis. The Indian, called Joao
Cabore, spent four weeks inside a room chained " ora pelos bragos, ora
pelos pes, ora pelo pescogo" ("sometimes by his arms, other times by his
feet, and still other times by his neck") because he committed the offense-
against the injunction of the friars-of abandoning his religiously-wed
wife (Brazilian?) for an Indian woman. The friars' network of informants
warned them against an impending attack by the Tenetehara, but they
did not believe it. So, on April 13, 1901, Joao Cabore accompanied by
34 other family heads and probably many more younger, men, came to Alto
, ATegre in the early morning at Mass time, and killed everyone there, /
friars, sisters, and Brazilians, perhaps as many as 200 people as was
charged later. One woman escaped and warned the people of Barra do
Corda. The incident is known in the region as the "massacre of Alto
Alegre." The Tenetehara simply call it "the time of the Alto Alegre."
How Joao Cobare and Manuel Justino, the two Tenetehara who were
charged by the Brazilians as leaders of the massacre, organized so many
Tenetehara and planned the attack is not clear. The Arguivo da Curia
has a record of the judicial prosecution of the Tenetehara, and it names
34 men and six village areas as being involved in it. It is very possible
that all the villages of the region between the upper Mearim and the .upper
Grajau Rivers and even the villages of the upper Zutiua River were
involved in it. Tenetehara informants have told me that some family
heads (particularly their own ancestors) did not participate, but this •
may simply be a statement of self-protection since there is still some
apprehension about talking about the Alto Alegre. They have told me
that Joao Cabore (whom they call Kawire) actually went from village to
village inviting people to get involved in his plans. Those who showed
reluctance feared for their lives and fled from their villages. As the
Arquivo records that Cabore went to Sao Luis in November-December, 1900,
for unknown reasons (Tenetehara say he went to plead with the state
authorities to stop the Capuchins from taking away their children), it
is clear that the actual planning for the attack was carried out at most
in four months ' time.
Among the cited names of the 34 culprits in the Arquivo, three of
them have the surname "Gaviao," which means "hawk." To my knowledge,
there have been no such surnames, or any surname of birds, ever given to
Tenetehara men. Furthermore, as these three men were from a village
called "Pau-Ferrado"--a name never mentioned by Tenetehara to me as
having been a village of their own--which is now a Brazilian town located
in former Apanyekra (Timbira) territory (William Crocker, personal commun-
ication), I believe these men were actually Timbira Indians. A Tenetehara
informant has also, without receiving a request for confirmation, told
me that Timbira Indians were involved in it, too. There is no reason
to doubt that, since their children were also brought in to Barra do
Corda, and some of them are reported in the Arquivo to have died of
tetanus and the epidemics of 1900.
What the involvement of a few Timbira men means here is that this
planned attack did not rise out a nativistic or revival istic movement,
as one might expect among an ehtnic group like the Tenetehara living
in social conditions of potential disruption to their society. These
Timbira and the Tenetehara were in the same boat, so to speak, but they
shared no common culture or symbols to unite them in the fashion of a
The so-called "War of the Castes" between the Yucatan Maya and the
local Mexicans in the 1840s, a war that was organized on the inter-
village level, resembles on a grander scale the Tenetehara attack. But
it was spurred on by the "Speaking Cross" in a nativistic movement
(Reed 1964). Tenetehara informants have never alluded to me of any signs
of nativism at that time, and only much later in the 1950s do we find
the Tenetehara trying to work out a potential nativistic ideology. In
sum, although this question deserves more attention, I shall leave it open
here. What should be stressed is the point that even a society as loosely
organized as the Tenetehara can find ways to crystallize itself in a
single bloc for temporary and emergency situations.
After the Tenetehara killed the inhabitants of Alto Alegre they
stayed there and fought two police attacks from Barra do Corda before
they were routed out by a force of 70 soldiers coming from Barra do
Corda, one militia unit from Grajau, and above all, 40 Canella Indians
who had been recruited to fight them. The Canella Indians, who, according
to William Crocker (personal communication), had no previous history of
fighting the Tenetehara, since they lived too far away from the Tenete-
hara, were actually the ones who broke the Tenetehara siege. An unrecorded
number of Tenetehara, Brazilians, and Canella were killed in this confron-
tation. Several Tenetehara were captured after they dispersed from
Alto Alegre, including Manuel Justino viho. was killed when brought to
Barra do Corda in an alleged attempt to escape, and Joao Cabore who was
jailed, interrogated, and condemned to the maximum penalty of life imprison-
ment in Barra do Corda. However, he died in jail in November of the
same year. Cabore' s deposition before his interrogators illustrates a
characteristic attitude Of the Tenetehara toward Brazilians who accuse
them of some malfeasance. He denied any participation in the killings,
but admitted being present in Alto Alegre on that fateful morning when
he had, by coincidence, gone to the nearby lake to take a bath.
The dispersal of the Tenetehara is considered by them as a veritable
exodus. Mothers are said to have smothered their crying babies to death
if they were near the persecuting soldiers. They suffered starvation
and when they came to a Brazilian farm to beg for food, they were simply
killed. The Arquivo and a Tenetehara informant report that some wandering
bands plundered some farms, particularly, in my informant's version, those
farms that had young Tenetehara among their retinue of servants. Local
lore says that a Tenetehara band took along from Alto Alegre a young
Brazilian girl named Perpetua who, on the way to the forest of the Pindare,
kept carving on trees: "Prepretinha [little Perpetua] came through here."
The Tenetehara confirm this story in these very terms but I suspect that
they are simply repeating what they have heard from Brazilians.
The dispersal of the Tenetehara was massive. Apparently none of
the previous villages stayed in the same place. The majority of them
seemed to have moved to the middle Grajau River where as late as 1924
there are reports of "wild" uncontacted Tenetehara (Snethlage 1931).
Another group moved beyond the upper Zutuia River and even as far as the
Gurupi River. And the rest scattered about, some bands going to hidden
areas away from the rivers, and others even into the savannah area, a
rare case for a forest tribe. Needless to say this lasted only a few
months. One of these bands that ventured into the savannah later moved
into an area between the upper Mearim and its tributary the Enjeitado
Creek. This area is now called Bacurizinho for a village founded there
in 1950. We shall hear 'more about it because that is where half of
my fieldwork time was spent.
The mutual animosity between Brazilians and Tenetehara after Alto
Alegre was, in view of the gravity of this event, rather short-lived.
In fact, soon after the dispersal at least one Brazilian landowner lent '
a helping hand to a group of Tenetehara and took them to an estate of his
own near the Gurupi River. This group had been part of a village that
was located on one of his estates and relations between them had been
rather warm, as far as patron-client relationships go. There is little
point in arguing that he was simply trying to get rid of these people;
in fact, it is rumored that this landowner was one of the principal
instigators of the Tenetehara attack on Alto Alegre. In any event,
apparently his motives were good for he gave some education to some of
the young boys of this group. Two of them, brothers who were probably .
his natural children, took this man's surname for themselves and later
became well-known in the region as intelligent and articulate Tenetehara
and protectors of their village's interests against neighboring Brazilians.
Their sons have continued in their fathers' footsteps.
So brief was the animosity between Tenetehara and Brazilians that
within five year's time most of the Tenetehara who had fled returned to
the very same places. When E. Snethlage visited this region in 1924,
he calculated the Tenetehara population living between the Mearim and
Grajau Rivers at between 750 and 800 people. Three of the twelve to
fifteen reported villages, however, were located further down the Grajau
River so there were some nine Tenetehara villages in comparison with
eighteen or more of the pre-Alto Alegre time in the same region. S.
Froes de Abreu (1931:105) who surveyed this region in 1928, confirms
Snethlage's report. This population has continued to grow despite the
loss of much of their former territory and the continuing epidemics of
measles and smallpox, and now numbers over 2,000 people or half the total
What were the real consequences of the Alto Alegre if, as seems to
be the case, things had returned to normal in such a short time? The
most important one was that the Alto Alegre temporarily halted a process
of acculturation-translated here in terms of Tenetehara peasantization
and loss of land-which was on the increase as more and more Brazilian
peasants were immigrating into the region and dispossessing the Tenete-
hara with impunity. The Great Drought of 1877-1880 in the Northeast
brought many peasants not only to this region but also to the lower
Pindare River region (cf. Cunnif 1970:259, 266). Modern Tenetehara have
a standardized way of explaining how the Brazilians of those times dis-
possessed them of their land and their women by guile and the trick of
■ .offering some tobacco, a little salt, and a few other trinkets for these
precious goods. Most of the Brazilian genes found in the Tenetehara gene
pool-which seems quite mixed-apparently dates back to the nineteenth
century, to the times of a 70 year old person's mother and grandmother.
Coupled with the inevitable animosity or, at the very least, suspicion of
the Brazilians and their covetousness , this temporary halt allowed the
formation of an ideology of a common cause, a united front, us against
Brazilians. This is not to say, of course, that in opposition to Brazil-
ians and other Indian tribes, the Tenetehara did not feel a bond of
sharing a culture before the Alto Alegre. They certainly did, as the
Alto Alegre proves, but not to the extent that this identification pre-
cluded a particular family from cutting off relations with their fellow
villagers to align themselves with a Brazilian landowner or peasant of
medium sized holdings for economic as well as social reasons. The
Alto Alegre did away with alignment with Brazilians for social reasons. . '
To put it in other terms, no longer did Tenetehara families feel that
they would profit socially (in terms of lifestyle) by living with Brazil-
ians. This realization-actually a conscious realization during at
least the first 20 years of this century-was an important step toward
preventing the breaking up of villages into independent families and
thus slowing down the process of acculturation. For it is a character-
istic of Tenetehara social organization that rivalry between families
(even nuclear families within a "weak" extended family) generally
culminates in the exit of one rival to another place. Now that they
were unwilling to become Brazilians, new social ways came about to minimi:
village splits (not inter-family quarrels). Or, if the village split,
at least the exiting family(ies) moved to another Tenetehara village or
a new place near one and not to a Brazilian settlement.
Without social reasons for acculturation, economic reasons could not
be as important anymore. Indeed, except for cattle raising there is
nothing among the Brazilian local peasantry that the Tenetehara living
in their villages cannot do. Their land is as fertile as the peasants ' ,
th^ir crops and the slash-and-burn techniques of cultivation are the same.
Their respective modes of production and consequently their levels of
productivity are different, of course, because of the different social
divisions of labor and their different cultural incentives. The Brazil-
ian peasants are more productive and generally have more manufactured
goods than the Tenetehara. The Tenetehara can only increase their produc-
tivity by restructuring their production units of labor, but this is
only possible in times of economic booms of goods which they can produce.
Hence their desire for manufactured goods is not fulfilled to the extent
that the peasants' desires are, which makes the peasant way of life some-
what alluring for an ambitious Tenetehara man. On the other hand, the
social conditions of the peasant, the small peasant living on the land
of a landowner, sharing the fruits of his labor with his patron, are rather
demeaning and inferior to life in a village and the sole ownership of one's
labor's products. The Tenetehara are conscious of this social advantage,
while the Brazilian peasant clings to the illusion of his superiority
through his claim to civilization, his flea-infested wattle-and-daub
houses, and his Christianity.
These considerations are present nowadays among the Tenetehara and
I believe they were first articulated after Alto Alegre, as I detect from
the accounts of old informants about the early years of this century.
The Tenetehara, however, never cut off relations with Brazilians, with
the exception of a few villages which remained in isolation up until the
1920s (Snethlage 1931). Since at least the middle of the nineteenth
century (Plagge 1857; Dodt 1939) the Tenetehara had acquired the need for
iron implements such as machetes and axes, and whenever possible, of
muzzle-loading guns, gun powder and shot, and clothes. But these last
three commodities had been hard to obtain because of their high prices
and small supply. This was particularly so in the upper Mearim River
region where there was no extractive product that was of trade value and
where only agricultural products, notably cotton, rice, and manioc, had
worthwhile trade value. Although it is a region which had some cattle
since it is on the fringes of the savannah zone, the Tenetehara seem
to have had no desire to modify their mode of production to include
cattle raising. Moreover, the upper Mearim River region (or rather the '
Grajau-Barra do Corda region) had very poor infrastructure to foment -
development and trade. The Mearim River had been cleared of obstacles
to motor launches since the 1860s. In 1897 it took 15 days to travel
to Barra do Corda from Sao Luis (Arquivo da Curia 1894-1901). One bad,
unkempt road connected Barra do Corda to Caxias, the entrepot of cotton
and cattle business, in 1858, but in 1870 it needed repair (Marques
1970:106, 191). Worse still was the situation of GrajaC which was
connected to Barra do Corda by a road but to other towns such as Carolina
to the west on the Jocantins River, and settlements to the south, only
by cattle trails. In fact, its easiest means of access to Sao Lufs was
via a cattle trail, the famous "estrada do sertao" ("hinterland road")
opened in 1863 (Marques 1970:180), which went from Carolina to Moncao
first along the Buriticupu River, later (probab.ly in the 1910s when a
telegraph line linked Grajau to Moncao) along the Zutiua River. The
Grajau River is a shallow river, passable in the dry season only by
canoes pushed by the paddling crew. This was very tough work and was '
actually routinized around 1920. By then, apparently the Grajau-Barra do
Corda region was experiencing enough economic impet^js to warrant the
appearance of canoes on the Grajau River.
In any event, it is clear that up until the 1920s the economy of
the region was quite sluggish. This actually helped the Tenetehara
regain their abandoned lands since the Brazilians did not capitalize on
this temporary vacancy. Before the 1920s the only items of trade value '
to the Tenetehara were cotton and manioc and some babagu nuts which were
beginning to be sought in trade (Snethlage 1931). Cultivation of cotton
and manioc was aboriginal among the Tenetehara and they found no diffi-
culty in increasing production for trade purposes. By the 1920s they
were engaged in this trade as Snethlage (1931) and Abreu (1931:115)
witnessed. Abreu (1931:115) lists also the trade of wild skins and some
lumber among the upper Mearim River villages, and Snethlage (1931)
lists babacu nut production where babacu trees are found in groves,
apparently on the Grajau River.
The Gurupi and Pindare Regions
To conclude our description of the period of patron-client relation-'
ships, however, we must takeafinal look at what was happening on the Pindare
and Gurupi Rivers/ Through the last quarter of the nineteenth century
the Tenetehara of the upper Pindare and Gurupi Rivers became engaged in
the trade of copatba oil, while those living near Pindare-Mirim were
engaged in the trade of manioc and other food staples. This town had
grown out of the Sao Pedro colony as it attracted Brazilian peasants
coming from other states. After the Great Drought of 1877-1880, as
already mentioned, the provincial government had set up a new colony
there for the immigrants. In 1888 a modern sugar mill was installed
nearby and the town seemed to have progressed enough to be connected to
SSo Lufs by a railroad. However, by 1915 the mill had been closed
and the area was "in decadence" (Lopex 1970:136).
During this brief period of economic growth many Brazilians had
moved into Pindare-Mirim and even up the Pindare River where two small
settlements were founded. These settlements had. been founded not only
to obtain copaiba oil directly from the Tenetehara but also to produce
agricultural goods to sell in Pindare-Mirim. Apparently the decadence
of Pindare-Mirim put an end to the demand for agricultural goods, and
copafba oil was not enough to keep these settlements going. As in the
upper Mearim River region this period brought a great deal of racial
intermixture. Brazilians moved in with Tenetehara on friendly terms
and even in permanent arrangements. A few of Wagley and Galvao's
informants in 1941-45 said that their fathers were " cearenses "
(Brazilians from the State of Ceara which was hard hit by the Great
It should be stated here that the region of the Zutiua River--
which became progressively populated by Tenetehara throughout the nine-
teenth century-is divided up, in terms of trade economies and relations
to Brazilian towns, into the lower Zutiua which is part of the Pindare
Tu^^^onn"^ relates to the towns on the lower Pindare River (Moncao until
the 1880s, and Pindare-Mirim afterwards), and the upper Zutiua which is
part of the Grajau-Barra do Corda region and relates to these towns and
the town of Amarante after the 1920s.
Drought) who had married Tenetehara women and had actually become important
men in the trade economy (Wagley 1942).
In 1918 a Tenetehara village on the lower Pindare River was attacked
by the Urubu-Kaapor and, according to one informant, many Tenetehara families
left this area for the lower Grajau River. But soon the area was repop-
In any event, we find the Pindare Tenetehara already in close contact
with Brazilians and permanently engaged in the trade economy. The fact
that there was not an Alto Alegre in the region left the Tenetehara with
little chance to create a posture of ethnic identification equivalent
to the one developed among the Grajau-Barra do Corda Tenetehara. The
economic stagnation of the region, in the period from about 1915 to /
1935 gave them a certain respite from total involvement, but it was
not of the kind to provide them with a reflection toward more cautious
relations. Eventually this region began to be more populated and when
Wagley and Galvao visited them in 1942 and 1945 there was apparently a
favorable feeling for Brazilian ways, an explicit and outward attitude
to negate their Indian ethnicity. This feeling, the Brazilian popula-
tion increase, and the permanent economic relations were the reasons, in
my opinion, which caused Wagley and Galvao to predict the final assimil-
ation of the Tenetehara within the time span of a generation or two.
As it turned out, they were to a large extent correct in this prediction
but only for the Pindare Tenetehara, not Tenetehara society in general.
In 1975 there remained two Tenetehara villages with about 80 people
on the upper Pindare and one main village and a few hamlets in a small
area of the lower Pindare River with a total population of about 230
people. In 1942 there had been close to 1,000 Tenetehara in the Pindare
On the Gurupi River the tembe-Tenetehara , with a population of about
2.500 people in 1872, as already mentioned, seemed to have been in a
situation of such intense economic transaction and miscegenation that
their numbers progressively declined to less than 300 in 1943 (SPI 1943:
10, 47) and no more than 100 in 1975. The Gurupi River was much visited
by canoe traders in search of copaiba oil as well as by gold miners during
this last part of the patron-client period. There were no Brazilian
towns close to Tenetehara village areas. The towns of Vizeu and Gurupi
are located far down on the lower Gurupi River, and Carolina and Imperatriz
on the Tocantins River. This made it necessary for canoe traders to live
a great part of the year among the Indians. Brusque (1862:13-14) reports
that some Canoe traders actually were in control of Tembe-Tenetehara
villages. He also reports one incident in which seven Tembe men killed
several canoe traders who had stolen some married women and beaten other
Indians. But the^ canoe traders had taken revenge by burning the village
and taking away seven Tembe children to live among the Brazilians down
river in Vizeu.
In addition to the 2,500 Tembe, 300 to 400 Amanajos Indians and
400 to 500 Timbira Indians, according to Dodt (1939:172-175), were living
in the Gurupi River region. All these groups were in contact with
canoe traders and apparently there was little animosity between them.
Earlier in 1862, Brusque (1862:16) reports that in one Timbira village
the headman was actually a Tembe man. Apparently this Timbira group had
arrived on the Gurupi many years ago from the Turi-Pindare region.
Another Timbira group, called Carajes (actually Kr~eye) had arrived recently
from the Tocantins River region, whence they had had to flee from an
imminent attack by local Brazilians (Dodt 1939:175).
It is interesting to note that the Gurupi region where the Tembe live
was not at all populated by Brazilians. Thus there was no intensive
agricultural production or Brazilian immigration as on the Pindare. This
fact makes it hard to explain the Tembe depopulation through this period.
As a tentative explanation I argue that the lack of Brazilian towns in
the vicinity, the brutal control of the canoe traders, and probably
gold miners as well, were important reasons, as effective as the density
of Brazilian population, for this depopulation. In addition, there were
the aggressive Urubu-Kaapor Indians with their famous iron-tipped arrows
who by 1872 were attacking Tembe villages and canoe travellers on the
Gurupi River (Dodt 1939:176). The Tembe certainly were no longer a match
against them, and consequently this increased the acculturation factor
by making Tembe villages and families seek protection from them near
Brazilian settlements in Para.
Nowadays, the Tembe of the Gurupi River number only about 50 people,
while there are barely fifteen Timbira. There is an Indian Post on the
Gurupi but it caters more to the 100 or so Urubu-Kaapor than the other
groups. In the State of Para there is another Indian Post near the town
of Capitao Pogo on the Guama River where there are a few Tembe; A
reservation for the Tembe exists on the Para side of the Gurupi River,
but recently a great part of it was sold or granted to the American Swift
Company for the raising of cattle. The Tembe-Tenetehara of the Gurupi
River region are so few that I shall not include them in the analysis that
• THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND THE ROLE OF THE SPI/FUNAI
In the preceding chapter I discussed the patron-client relationship
in terms of the effects it had on Tenetehara population change and
assimilation into the national society. I contrasted two main regions
of Tenetehara settlements in Maranhao, the Pindare River region and
the Grajau-Barra do Corda regionj in terms of the circumstances that
led to population decline or ethnic entrenchment and population growth.
It should be made clear here that the division between the Pindare and
the Grajau Tenetehara is an empirical reality, not just a descriptive
construct. The difference between these two areas lies in the different
kinds of inter-ethnic relations which are based upon the kinds of trade
economies that prevail in each area, as well as on the event of Alto
Alegre. Moreover, there is a certain consciousness among Tenetehara
of each area of being either from the Pindare or the Grajau region.
This consciousness, of course, is translated in terms of direct contact,
kinship ties, personal knowledge of individuals of their own particular
region, and the kinds of relationships which each region has with
Brazilians. This is also recognized by the SPI/FUNAI as the history of
the creation of Indian Posts indicates.
The Tenetehara Indians within each of these regions have permanent
contact with one another, either. because of physical proximity, kinship
■ ""Henceforth for the purposes of brevity I shall refer to this region
simply as the Grajau region.
ties, or accidental encounter in the Brazilian towns of their region.
Almost all Tenetehara of the GrajaG region visit GrajaG or Barra do
Corda each year for economic purposes and those of the Pindare region
visit Santa InSs, Pindare-Mirim or ColBnia Pimentel for similar reasons.
A Tenetehara from any of the present-day 35 or so villages of the GrajaG
region is able, either through personal knowledge or hearsay, to identify
a Tenetehara (and to varying degrees his kin group) from another village
in the same region. The same is true for the Pindare Tenetehara with
their five or six villages; this was also reported by Wagley and GalvSo
(1949:15) in the 1940s when there were about ten villages in the region.
- On the other hand, it is much more difficult for a Tenetehara of the
Grajau region to identify a Tenetehara from Pindare, unless he originally
came from that region, has close relatives there, or has visited with the
The Pindare-GrajaG division, however, does not in any form, social,
cultural, or political, make each region a discrete cultural or ethnic
unit. The social behavior and cultural symbols which identify the Tene-
tehara as a people and as an ethnic group are present in both regions,
with minor variations. The Tenetehara everywhere recognize themselves
as a people, to put it in Wagley and Galvao's terms (1949:15), and in
turn are ubiquotously seen as such by Brazilians.
It is interesting to note that the Tenetehara of the Grajau region
live in two kinds of environment: the Amazon tropical rain forest environ-
ment which extends across the Pindare River along the Zutiua River and
to the GrajaJ River as far south as th^ town of GrajaJ; and the transi-
tional forest environment which begins as the tropical forest ends and
extends along the upper Mearim River (see Figure 3). In the first
environmental zone live not only the Pindare Tenetehara but also the
Grajau Tenetehara of the Arariboia reservation located on the upper Zutiua
River. ^ In the second environmental zone are located the reservations of
Bacurizinho and Guajajara. This environmental zone which was populated
in the latter half of the nineteenth century has the largest concentration
of Tenetehara today, over 2,500 of them (See Table I, page 138). Clearly
then, the Tenetehara have been able to adapt to this new environment with-
out having to modify their culture to any distinguishable degree. That
the Tenetehara culture of the transitional forest environment did not become
different from that of the tropical rain forest has to do with the fact
that the new environment was not different enough to require significant
culture change. Those changes that did take place are restricted to
techniques of production which however did not affect the basic patterns
of Tenetehara production units, and therefore their total mode of production,
Both the rain forest and the transitional forest environments have
the same seasonal cycle, the same kinds of fauna with probably comparable
population densities, and generally the same kinds of flora which are
utilitized by the Tenetehara. , On the other hand, rain precipitation is
higher, and the fish population and the quality of soil in general are
more productive in the tropical forest. Consequently there are potentially
more available recources and, because of soil quality, less of a fallow
period for the recurrent utilization of garden lands by the slash-and-burn
method in the tropical forest. As the Tenetehara moved into the transi-
tional forest environment they therefore had to find complementary sources
of protein and more lands in order to plant gardens-or else control their
ratio of population growth. That their population has increased to a
higher degree than in the tropical rain forest proves that they found
ways to make up for these lesser resource potentials.
The Tenetehara of the transitional forest prefer to make gardens
in low areas, called baixoes in Portuguese, which are both more fertile
than other lands in the transitional forest environment and retain some
moisture throughout the dry season (for manioc plants which are cultivated
all year round) because the water table remains relatively high. Whereas
in the rain forest the Tenetehara prefer to make gardens above the flood
level of the rivers and in areas which have good drainage. These differ-
ent techniques in soil utilization balance out in terms of productivity.
The size of gardens reported by Wagley and Galvao (1949:44-45) for the
Pindare Tenetehara correspond to the size of gardens I found in Grajau,
i.e., between two to five linhas (about 2,500 square meters each),
according to size of family and economic incentive (from the trade economy)
Insteadof the abundant fish resources of the Pindare, the transi-
tional forest Tenetehara have complemented their protein needs with a more
efficient way of hunting namely the technique of espera or tocaia . In
an espera (literally a "wait") a hunter hangs his hammock on the branches
of a tree at night and waits for the deer, wild pigs, tapirs, and agoutis
to come to eat the fruits and flowers of nearby trees or to drink from
the few waterholes in the dry season. In this way the Tenetehara can
secure a greater amount of game in the dry season (June to December).
This meat is more or less equivalent in nutritional terms to the amount
of fish the rain forest Tenetehara catch in the same season. In the rainy
season the Tenetehara of the transitional forest hunt by stalking the
game, a technique which is less productive than that of driving game
to high, unflooded areas, or "islands," used by the rain forest Tenetehara
(cf. Wagley and GalvSo 1949:57). However, during this season the
transitional forest Tenetehara hunt wild forest fowl (jacus and jacutingas )
that migrate south from the rain forest. Beginning in April comes the
season of abundant agricultural products.
Thus, the basic mode of production of the Tenetehara, particularly
the way the production units are organized, have not changed as a result
of expansion to the transitional forest environment. Production by nuclear
family and extended family groups are present in both environments, the
predominance of one or the other being a matter of the intensity of the
demands of the trade economy. Consequently, the mode of production being
the same, the social organization of the Tenetehara remains the same in
both the rain forest and the transitional forest environments. The " •
principal items that are necessary to Tenetehara material and symbolic
culture, such as manioc flour, game meat, honey, cotton, tobacco, etc.,
are obtainable in both environments. The difference that exist among
and between the Tenetehara of the Bacurizinho and Guajajara reservations
of the transitional forest and the Tenetehara of the AraribSia, Pindar^
and Gurupi reservations of the rain forest can be explained in terms of
Tenetehara ethnohistory (i.e., the different patterns of interaction with
the Brazilian society) and not by ecological adaptation.
The Mediating Role of the SPI/FUNAI
The Service de Protegao aos tndios (SPI) was founded in 1910 by
an idealistic group of Brazilians who considered the Indian an important
element in the formation of the national society. This group of Brazilian
intellectuals were associated with a philosophy of Positivism, following
the teachings of Auguste Comte. The SPI was an answer to the situation
of the Kaingang Indians of Southern Brazil who were being exterminated
by colonists moving into, the rich coffee lands of Sao Paulo and Parana
in the first decade of the twentieth century. The basic raison d'etre of
the SPI was to protect the Indian from the detrimental effects of the
contact with the various segments of Brazilian society. Its ideology,
couched in positivistic terms, was that given the protection provided
by the SPI and a certain amount of secular education, the Indians would
■ eventually evolve from their supposed stage of matriarchical organization
and animistic religion to a contemporary Western type of society. One
of its founders and the leader of the movement was Col. (later Marshall)
Candido Mariano Rondon, who became the head of the SPI virtually until
his death in 1957. In his lifetime and after his death Rondon became
a national hero, a "father" to the Indians, with a national prestige
and admiration that has been only partially matched by the prestige of
the late medical doctor Noel Nutels and the Indian protectors ( indigenistas )
Orlando and Claudio Vilas-Boas.
The story of the creation of the SPI has been told by David Stauffer
(1959-1960), and its development through 1960 has been assessed by
Darcy Ribeiro (1962). Earlier in this dissertation, I have outlined the
formal structure and policies of FUNAI, the organization which replaced
the SPI in:i967 and today carries on its functions. In this Chapter it will
be sufficient for us to assess the role of the SPI in regard to the Tene-
tehara. It' is my judgment that this role is one of mediation of Tenetehara-
Brazilian relations. In fact, the action of the SPI was the most important
element determining the nature of these inter-ethnic relations in the
This does not mean that the SPI has been able to dissolve direct
contact, in the form of patron-client relationship, between Tenetehara
and Brazilians, nor that the official power of the SPI has always been
deferred to by local Brazilians in their relations with the Indians.
Yet, the mere presence of the SPI has been an obstacle to the exploitative
nature of Brazilian frontier society, and has provided the Indians with •
an official means with which to counteract the unofficial demands and
impositions of the Brazilians with whom they are in contact.
Both Brazilians and Tenetehara are conscious of the presence of the
SPI/FUNAI and its official power of mediation. The SPI/FUNAI has not been
able to create a situation of equitability between Brazilians and Tenete-
hara for several reasons. First, its programs have been rather incoherent
and both theoretically and practically unworkable. Second, its membership
has always been made up exclusively of Brazilians with no participation
by the Indians. Third, the SPI/FUNAI is an organ of the Brazilian govern-
ment and therefore follows the dictates of its current policies which more
often than not do not include the interest of the Indians. Fourth, many
of the Brazilian administrators of SPI/FUNAI programs, the commissioners
of the Regional Offices and the agents of Indian Posts have been incompetent
and sometimes corrupt. Although there is and always has been an urgent
need to overhaul the character and structure of the SPI/FUNAI, and thus
to create a more Indian-oriented official Indian policy, the abolition of
this organ seems inadmissable given the present situation of Brazilian-
In practical terms the most basic function of the SPI/FUNAI has been
the attempt to protect Indian lands from Brazilian expropriation. The
continuing ownership and control of land by the Indians has been recognized
by everyone with knowledge of Indian problems as a sine qua non for Indian
survival. A landless Indian soon becomes a peasant or a rural wage worker.
He is no longer an effective member of an ethnic group even though he
may still be described as one by virtue of his physical features or social
demeanor. Conversely, a group of self-ascribed Indians who claim owner-
ship of a piece of land by virtue of possession and legal rights are recog-
nized effectively as an ethnic group, as Indians, by Brazilians, even
though the group does not speak an aboriginal language, nor has a culture
which differs from non-Indians, and consequently cannot be distinguished
from local peasants. I have recorded one such case of a group of Indians
who migrated from Ceara State in the 1950s and settled on the Pindare
reservation near the Tenetehara. The Tenetehara called them "cearenses,"
but they could not deny their purported ethnicity. This ethnicity was
manifested in the bare form of a clannish type of organization, in the
popular sense, of the word. The 80-odd people in the group were lineally
related to one old man who organized and directed the activities of the
group. Their system of production, beliefs, and recreation were essentially
like that of Brazilian peasants. They claimed to be Timbira Indians,
which in this region meant simply that they were not Tenetehara, yet the
only non-Portuguese words they could remember were Tupi words, like pako
for banana and chiram for manioc flour. They had come from the Serra
Grande, near the Serra do Ibiapaba, which historically has been the home
of both Tupi (Tupinamba) and non-Tupi (Teremembes) Indians who were
probably not of Timbira affiliation (cf. Metraux 1963b:573-574) . But in
any case, they were "Indians" and actually were trying to be fully recog-
nized as such by FUNAI by marrying their young women to Tenetehara men,
instead of attracting young Brazilians to be part of their group, as
they had done for the generation who was the scion of the old man. At
the time of my visit to this group in November-December, 1975, no marriages
with Tenetehara had as yet taken place, but two young Tenetehara
were courting several of the old man's marriageable granddaughters with
his obvious approval.
The SPI/FUNAI regulates the affairs of the Indians by virtue of a
constitutionally granted right. THE SPI was an organ of the Ministry of
Agriculture until 1967 when it was replaced by FUNAI, now an organ of the
Ministry of Interior. As far as can be discerned no change of policy or
views on the Indian have resulted from this change of ministries. The
regulation of Indian affairs is juridically sanctioned by virtue of the
fact that the Indians are considered minors and thus, wards of the State.
This status is applied generically to all Indians regardless of the degree
of acculturation to Brazilian ways and their inter-ethnic relations with
the Brazilian society. As far as the Tenetehara are concerned, at this
point in time, this status of minor has both advantages and disadvantages.
Their legal position as minors protects them from Brazilian encroachment
on their lands and also means that they cannot be punished directly by civil-
military authorities for offenses against the state, such as public
nuisanceand even theft and murder. These prerogatives are not, of course,
followed strictly although they can always be claimed. But being minors
precludes the Tenetehara from entering into official relations with credit
agencies which nowadays are overshadowing the previous credit system of
patron-clientship. Furthermore, the Tenetehara cannot vote in elections,
something which could give them a certain leverage in the politics of the
small towns near their areas. But the status of minor does not foreclose
the participation of the Tenetehara in the welfare system, such as pensions
for people over 65 years old, and medical care which is provided by the
National Institute of Social Providence (INPS).
Given these considerations let us proceed to see how the SPI/FUNAI
related to the Tenetehara in practical terms. The presence of the SPI
in Maranhao dates to 1911 when the Regional Office was established in
Sao Luis (Ministerio de Agriculture 1913:19). By 1918 there was an
Indian Post for the lower Pindare River region, serving the Tenetehara,
the Timbira, the non-contacted Urubu-Kaapor and the Guaja. This Post
and a nearby Tenetehara village were attacked by the Urubu-Kaapor in
1918. Because the records of the SPI were burned in a fire in the SPI head-
quarters in 1966 in Brasilia, there are very few reports left of those
times. Therefore it is not possible to ascertain when the Pindare Post
was re-established although we know of its existence from 1927 on.
In the Grajau region, a Sub-Regional Office was created around 1920
in Barra do Corda to look after the interests of the Canella and Tenete-
hara. In 1923 this office had obtained a reservation of about 300,000
acres (865 square kilometers) of land between the Mearim River and its
tributary the Corda River. There were six Tenetehara villages in this
area. Seven other Tenetehara villages in the immediate vicinity were
outside this reservation. The Sub-Regional Office apparently tried to
move some of them onto the reservation but without any success (cf. Abreu
1931:119). This reservation area was legalized by the State Law of
25 April 1923. It was reconfirmed by the State Decree of 15 December 1936
as being comprised of 164,557 hectares or about 411,392 acres (cf, SPI
1942). Either more land was added to the reservation or, more likely,
the 1936 figures are wrong because the FUNAI census of 1975 estimated the
reservation to have 127,648 hectares, or about 300,000 acres, as in the
A map of this area showing reservation limits is to be found in
1923 figure. This reservation is now called Guajajara and presently
comprises two Indian Posts, Guajajara and Cana Brava. The seven Tenetehara
villages which were just outside the reservation in the 1920s have since
moved into this area.
By 1942, in addition to the Sub-Regional Office located in Barra do
Corda to take care of the Tenetehara of the Guajajara reservation as well
as the Canella Indians of Barra do Corda county, one more Indian Post,
called Arariboia, had been founded for the Tenetehara living in the Grajati
county. This county comprised then the Tenetehara areas which are now
the Bacurizinho reservation on the upper Mearim River (above the Guajajara
reservation) and the Arariboia reservation on the upper Zutiua River
(see Figure 3 and Figure!). The Post itself was located on the upper
Zutiua River, but the agent lived in Grajau. Later in the 1940s the
Sub-Regional Office expanded to include two newly created Indian Posts,
one for the Tenetehara of the Guajajara reservation and the other for ■
the Ganella Indians. In the early 1970s the Guajajara Indian Post split
into two, the other being the Cana Brava Indian Post. The Arariboia
Indian Post which used to be supervised by the Indian agent in GrajaG
split into four: AraribSia, Anjico Torto and Canudal Indian Posts being
located in the present reservation of Arariboia, and the Bacurizinho Indian
Post located in the Bacurizinho reservation. Finally the Pindare Indian
Post (then called Gongalves Dias) split into two, the other being the
Caru Indian Post located on the upper Pindarl River near the Caru River.
The creation of these Posts seems to be a response both to the
number of Tenetehara villages and population concentration in a particular
area as well as the degree of isolation of certain Tenetehara village areas.
Thus the Caru and Canudal Indian Posts, with populations numbering less than
100 Tenetehara, were created because these areas were located far away
from Brazilian towns and therefore were more susceptible to land invasion
by Brazilian peasants without the knowledge of FUNAI.
I he creation of reservations, however, follows a more haphazard
plan. In addition to the Guajajara reservation originally made legal
in 1923-36, plans were being made in 1942 to acquire land for the rest of
the Tenetehara in the following ways: three villages were to have 52,272
hectares of land; two villages, 41,382; three villages, 85,282; and four
villages, 121,968. Apparently these villages, which were neither named
nor located in particular areas, were located in the general region of
Grajau (SPI.1942). The same source for these plans states that plans
were also being made to create a reservation for the Pindare region, which
included the Tenetehara, Urubu-Kaapor , and Guaju Indians, whose area was
calculated at 353,889 hectares (SPI 1942).
Unfortunately these plans were not carried out in the 1940s. In
fact, in 1948 the SPI paid a land engineer to once again delimit the
Guajajara reservation area which they had obtained by the Decree of 1936.
For this, new arrangements were made with local landowners who claimed
to own portions of it, and new expenses accrued. Moreover, the engineer
never finished his job, claiming at one point that he lacked the money
with which to pay the workers.
In the 1950s the SPI made new plans to set up reservation lands
for the Tenetehara. Apparently the 1942 plans were dropped for we find
no mention of them in the SPI report of 1959 (SPI 1959). In that year
the SPI bought a piece of land between the Mearim River and its tributary
Enjeitado Creek for Cr$100,000. 00 from a local landowner who claimed to
own it even though the Tenetehara had been living there since the turn of
the century.. X This area now comprises the Bacurizinho reservation. This
same report states that there were plans to buy land for the Tenetehara
of the lower Pindare River, and in 1962 this was indeed done; this is now
the Pindarg reservation. In 1961 the Federal government decreed the
establishment of a national park located between the Gurupi and Pindare
Rivers; this is now the Gurupi reservation. Finally, the Arariboia
reservation was created sometime in the late 1960s.
^^^'^^ ^= Tenetehara Reservations, Indian Posts, and Population
(between Gurupi ,
Turi , and Pindare
Zutiua and Buriticupu
(between Corda and
extending NW of latter)
River and Enjeitado
(on lower Pindare)
Source: Sixth Regional Office of FUNAI, Sao Lufs, 1975.
The problem of reservation lands for the Tenetehara, however, is
far from solved. In fact, FUNAI, as of 1975, had not been able either to
demarcate these lands (i.e., open a path along their borders) or to make
them legal reservations (i.e., declare them Federal lands in the possession
of the Tenetehara). These reservations are de jure federal lands under
the jurisdiction of FUNAI. The Indians, therefore, have no right to sell
or lease portions of it, which is, indeed, when we compare this with the
case of the North American Indian reservations, an advantage for the pre-
servation of Indian land. However, FUNAI can lease parts of these lands
or the right to exploit certain of their natural resources without asking
the Indians' permission. Moreover, FUNAI can, by federal decree or simply
federal order, sell or transfer parts of these lands to private individuals
or other federal agencies. This has happened in Maranhao to a portion of
the Gurupi reservation inhabited by Urubu-Kaapor Indians which was
transferred to SUDENE (a federal agency in charge of making programs to
relieve the population pressure in the Northeast) for one of its colonizing
projects. FUNAI had, therefore, to move the Urubu-Kaapor to another
portion of the reservation, a task which involved persuading the Indians
that there they would be better off and better assisted by FUNAI.
In addition to the five reservation areas inhabited by the Tenetehara
(and the Urubu-Kaapor and Guaja Indians), FUNAI had established one reser-
vation each for the Canella Ramkokamekra , the Canella Apanyekra, the
Krikati, and the Gavioes Indians. Of all these reservations only that of
the Canella Ramkokamekra has been demarcated and legalized, even though
the reservations of Bacurizinho and Pindare has legal documents of purchase
from Brazilian landowners, and the reservations of Gurupi and Guajajara
has legal documents of State and Federal decrees. Furthermore, the limits
of all of these reservations, including Arariboia, even though they had '
been settled at one point, were being challenged legally by Brazilian
landowners. More importantly, they were all being invaded to various '
degrees by Brazilian peasants. The worst situations were taking place
in Pindare and Arariboia (particularly near the Anjico Torto Indian Post)
where over 2,000 Brazilian peasants had recently moved into Indian lands
to plant rice and manioc crops, and were threatening to settle permanently.
I have already mentioned the friction between Brazilians and Tenetehara
in Anjico Torto. The Tenetehara of the Pindare reservation were not
taking matters into their own hands but were leaving them to be decided
by FUNAI, although they were eager to help in the process of evacuating
the invaders, as they did in October, 1975. The vast Gurupi reservation
was by far the least densely populated even counting about 425 Urubu-
Kaapor and perhaps 100-150 uncontacted Guaja'. Therefore, invasion was
proceeding at a rapid pace, coming in on three fronts: from the Gurupi,
the Turi, and the Pindar^ Rivers. Parts of the Bacurizinho reservation
were being challenged by a landowner and by several peasant families who
had bought land plots from a landowner who claimed to own large portions
of the reservation area. The Guajajara and Pindare" reservations had been
divided into two parts by the recent construction of state highways, and
that, too, was attracting invaders. The situation of the Guajajara reser-
vation was even more problematic because part of it was located on lands
of the Capuchin Alto Alegre mission and the town of Sao Pedro do Cacete.
The Capuchins were willing to defer ownership of their 36 square ki lometers
of land to FUNAI, as I found out in. a converstation with the secretary of
the Monastery of Sao Carmo in Sao Luis, but FUNAI had not capitalized on
that offer. The inhabitants of Sao Pedro do Cacete, however, were
unwilling to move their town outside the reservation.
As of the end of 1975 there were plans and projects to demarcate
and legalize these reservation areas, but they had not been realized.
The officials of the Sixth Regional Offices and the DGO (Department of
General Operations) of FUNAI headquarters, were apparently not working
as a team. The former were trying to evacuate the invaders by giving
them time to move out on their own and compromising on the size of the
reservation, whereas the DGO had plans of forcing the invaders out even
though they were unaware of how many invaders there were and what parts
of the reservations they occupied. The Tenetehara were impatient with
the lack of concerted action from FUNAI, and this served only to increase
the low esteem in which they held FUNAI.
In addition to the function of protecting Indian lands, the SPI/FUNAI
has the important function of taking care of the physical well being of
the Indians, i.e., of seeing that the Indian population is not decimated
by the ravages of European diseases. These protective measures have been
carried out by means of immunization programs against such diseases as
tuberculosis, small pox, measles, whooping cough, and diphtheria, as
well as by treatment programs against tuberculosis, venereal disases,
influenza, malaria, and the many varieties of diseases that attack the
internal organs of an individual, particularly the stomach, intestines,
liver, and kidneys. In their immunization program the SPI/FUNAI can
claim a certain amount of success, particularly among the tribes of the
Xingu Park and among such tribes as the Xavante, Bororo, Karaja, and others.
Many other Indian groups, however, have not had this benefit, such as
the Urubu-Kaapor who have suffered a population loss on the order of 70 per cent
from their pre-contact population of about 1500 in 1927 to less than 450
in 1975 (Ribeiro 1970:276; 1974:34; and personal data 1975). Other tribes
have been effectively wiped out by such diseases before any such immuniza-
tion was carried out (cf. Ribeiro 1970:Ch. 2).
The treatment programs of SPI/FUNAI have been all but ineffective,
because of the disjointed, incompetent infrastructure provided by the SPI/
FUNAI. The permanent, regional medical staff of the SPI/FUNAI (and here
I should limit my references to FUNAI, since during the SPI period a'
medical staff hardly existed) is composed of practical nurses ( enfermeiros )
residing in the Indian Posts, who are under the supervision of a part-time
doctor and a dentist in the Regional Office. The doctor is informed by
the practical nurse of the state of health of particular villages and
serious individual cases. The physician is supposed to diagnose and pre-
scribe treatment for the illness. In practice, however, the practical
nurse does the diagnosing and treatment of most ill individuals, except
in such cases when hospitalization is called for as in surgical operations,
dementia, and prolonged infection of internal organs which the practical
nurse has been unable to cure with the available antibiotics, dosages of
vitamins, and other medicines.
In the 1940s, the SPI began to provide some medical assistance to
the Tenetehara both in the Grajau and Pindare regions. Until then the
Tenetehara had had no medical assistance at all except for occasional
help from a Brazilian doctor or nurse in the nearby towns. The Tenetehara
of the Bacurizinho Indian Post told me of two major epidemics prior to the
1940s: one in the early 1910s which is described as measles and another
in the early 1930s as smallpox. The latter epidemic is confirmed by the
pock marks on the face and shoulders of some of the survivors whom I met.
Both epidemics are spoken of as having had a devastating effect, killing
children and adults alike. In 1929, Abreu (1931:111) visited the village
of Bananal, located on the Bacurizinho reservation where there were ■
several people suffering from tuberculosis and venereal diseases. It
is possible that throughout the SPI period these latter diseases were in
an endemic state in a great number of Tenetehara villages of the Grajau
region. Wagley and Galvao, however, do not report such conditions in the
villages of the Pindare region. In the late 1940s and early 1950s there
were several measles epidemics on the Grajau and Pindare Rivers. In
fact, a great cause of Tenetehara population loss in the Pindare seems
to have been whooping cough and measles epidemics, according to several of
The earliest medical assitance provided by the SPI in the 1940s
was limited to treatment. Initially it consisted mainly in giving Tenetehara
heads of family a few tablets (three to six, according to local SPI records
in my possession) of anti-malarial medicine. The SPI practical nurse for
the whole region of Grajau prescribed one tablet a day for an adult patient
and one half tablet for a child. These tablets were provided by the
National Anti-Malarial Service (SNCM) in conjunction with the SPI.
In the 1950s an immunization program was set up against smallpox
and tuberculosis, the latter through the BCG vaccine. These programs have
been continued by FUNAI in a more consistent fashion. As far as FUNAI
is concerned, smallpox has been eradicated among the Tenetehara. But a
local report from the Bacurizinho Indian Post indicates suspicion of
five cases of smallpox in 1973. The incidence of tuberculosis is considered
of manageable proportion. Among a population of 800 Tenetehara of the
Bacurizinho Post there were fourteen cases recorded in 1974 (six of which
were in Bananal village) and only one of them has since died from it.
Tuberculosis treatment is applied by the practical nurse and supervised
by the FUNAI doctor, and it conforms to the plan used for Brazilians. The
incidence of tuberculosis among the Tenetehara (roughly 1.5 percent as
extrapolated from the data from the Bucurizinho Post) contrasts unfavorably
with the percentage among the Brazilian population of .5 percent (Dr.
Elisa S^, personal communication).'
In 1974, out of a population of about 800 in Bacurizinho Post
152 were vaccinated against polio, 154 received the DPT vaccine (against
diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough) and 145 against measles. The
other Indian Posts probably carried out similar programs. In 1975, 26
people received injections of DPT and polio vaccine, but there were no
records of whether these injections were applied to different people or
were follow-up injections to people who had received the first dosage.
In August 1975, almost every Tenetehara who made the trip to either
Grajad, Amarante, or one of the three key villages where the medical
crew of FUNAI decided to set up a temporary make-shift clinic, was
vaccinated against meningitis as part of a nation-wide campaign. Yet,
these programs cannot be said to be as thorough as they might be prin-
cipally because the medical staff does not keep close records of who was
vaccinated or who suffered a reaction from the vaccines.
Diseases, therefore, remain a constant threat to the Tenetehara.
In 1973, a time when it is to be expected that DPT vaccination programs
had been initiated, there were epidemics of whooping cough in the villages
of Bacurizinho and Ipu and at least eight people were reported to have died
from it. Two adults are included here. It is clear, nevertheless, by the
Incidence of contraction and the rate of survival, that the Tenetehara have
acquired a certain number of antibodies against these diseases of Old World
origin which plague them (and the Brazilian population as well). However,
it has not been possible to ascertain if the natural defenses acquired
by the Tenetehara compare favorably with that of the rural Brazilian popu-
The medical treatment provided by FUNAI in recent years continues
to be highly ineffective. Every Indian Post has a pharmacy stocked with
medicine which is manufactured and provided gratis by the Brazilian govern-
ment. This pharmacy and the practical nurse are expected to attend to
the needs of the five or six villages, Or on the average of 500 Tenetehara,
who live under the jurisdiction of the Post. Often, however, the practical
nurse is missing either because of the frequent transfer of practical
nurses from one Post to another which FUNAI makes for one reason or other,
or because of the personal i rrespo,nsi bi 1 ity of practical nurses who take
long vacations away from the Post to go to Brazilian towns. In addition,
most practical nurses hardly ever visit all the villages in the Post area
as he or she is supposed to do at least once a month. Therefore, a sick
Tenetehara must come to the Indian Post or else send a relative to get
medicine for him. The FUNAI doctor and dentist come at most twice a year
to each Post and they spend no more than a couple of days in each. Their
consultations, moreover, are intended only to prescribe a medication to
cure a particular symptom, not as a check-up of one's state of health. In
short, the knowledge of the state of health of individual Tenetehara is of
the most rudimentary kind, as the FUNAI doctors give short, five minute
consultations only to individuals who are suffering visibly from some
-The practical nurse diagnoses a physical complaint of a Tenetehara
by the description which the patient or his proxy provides. The most
common descriptions of illnesses lead to these kinds of diagnoses:
anemia, cough, liver pains, dysentery, fever, rheumatism, gland inflammation
intestinal parasites, headaches, colic, vomiting, and conjunctivities.
He then prescribes treatment by following the directions on the label of
the medicines which he has in the Post pharmacy. Thus if a patient
complains of "weakness" the practical nurse gives Vitamin B in liquid or
an iron compound; for cough, a potassium iodide is given along with a
high dosage of an antibiotic; for dysentery, diarrhea, or stomach pains
(or what the practical nurse diagnoses as amoeba) either " Kaopec " or
"Iioxine" is given. I cannot, of course, evaluate with any expertise the
effectiveness of these treatments, but I can say that administering 200,000
units of an antibiotic to a six month-old infant with a cold and runny
nose--as I witnesses several times— hardly contributes to the overall
health of the child.
Perhaps a more reliable source of treatment to the Tenetehara is
provided by a hospital in the town of Graja^. This hospital is funded
by the Beretta family of Italy and is run by a Capuchin friar, known
locally as Frei Alberto, who is himself a medical doctor. This hospital
is a non-profit organization, and as such attends to the medical needs of
everyone (Indians and poor Brazilians) who comes to it. It was founded
in the late 1950s and since then the Tenetehara have come to rely on it .•
and the friar-doctor for any type of emergency treatment. In fact,
upon notice, Frei Alberto may send an ambulance to the Bacurizinho Post
to transport a Tenetehara who is in need of medical attention. Usually
such emergencies are those of difficult parturition, accidents with fire-
arms, and such other cases of life and death when the time factor is impor-
tant. Although recently FUNAI entered into an agreement with the hospital
whereby the hospital can charge the expenses of treating a Tenetehara to
FUNIA, no Tenetehara had ever been refused admittance and treatment because
of lack of money previous to this agreement. , •
This medical assistance has been carried further by Frei Alberto
himself who visits the Bacurizinho Post every third Sunday of the month.
Frei Alberto takes this occasion not only to briskly visit every house of
the villages of Ipu and Bacurizinho and to distribute medicine, generally
malaria pills, cough medicine, and antibiotics, but also to celebrate
Mass in each of the small churches which he had built in the two named
villages. The Tenetehara generally attend these Masses—although the
pressure to do so comes only from a nun who accompanies Frei Alberto— and
they speak of themselves accordingly as "Catholics." It should be stated
that previous to the arrival of Frei Alberto, the Tenetehara of the
Bacurizinho Post considered themselves "Protestants" because in the 1930s
there was a Protestant missionary living among them. Other Tenetehara
from villages not visited by Frei Alberto and even from villages where
Protestant missionaries are working, are equally welcomed in the hospital.
Despite the short time dedicated to the Tenetehara by Frei Alberto, the
Tenetehara feel more secure in being his patients, than in being patients
of the FUNAI medical team. Hence they esteem the friar for his assis-
tance and good will, and their Catholicism is more a function of this
relationship than of conviction.
Among the Tenetehara Indians, as well as among Brazilians of almost
all classes and backgrounds, there is a high degree of trust in pharma-
ceutical medicine. In fact, there is an assumption that antibiotics can
cure everything and that application by injection is the most effective
way of bringing about a cure. As an example, I was asked by two Tenetehara
to provide them with penicillin injections to cure bruises which they
suffered from a fall and from being hit by a falling tree. Moreover, it
is felt that the more an injection or topical treatment hurts a patient,
the more effective it is. The misuse, or I should say the fetishistic
use, of medicine coupled with the symptomatic approach to pathological
treatment whereby a particular disease is treated as a separate unit as
if it were not part of a pathological syndrome, has, and can only, bring
about partial cure and in some cases, detrimental results.
I cannot evaluate the overall health conditions of the Tenetehara
and the results of the FUNAI health program, but I can make two general'
statements in this regard. First, the Tenetehara do not seem to be
threatened by population decimation as resulting from epidemics, and when
such an epidemic strikes, as the whooping cough epidemic of 1973 in
Bacurizinho, they seem not to be massively affected by it. This is
partly a function of their acquired immunity and partly a function of SPI/
FUNAI medical assistance. This relatively (i.e., in comparison with
other Indian groups) lesser vulnerability to epidemics is attested by the
population growth of the Tenetehara which has increased from about 3,000
people in the early 1950s (my own estimate based on local SPI records)
to 4,300 people in 1975. Second, I made a statistical survey of 66
Tenetehara women in the villages of Ipu and Bacurizinho which shows with
fair accuracy that the rate of survival of children born to them has not
changed over the last forty years or so. Thus, FUNAI medical assistance
has so far brought little or no amelioration to the high infant mortality
rate of the Tenetehara. It is generally recognized that a low rate of
infant mortality is one of the basic indicators of the health conditions
of a population group.
For the survey mentioned above, I divided the sample of 66 women '
into three categories: (1) women generally beyond child-bearing age
(i.e., over forty years old); (2) women who already have had several
children and are still within the child bearing age (i.e., between ages
31 and 40); and (3) women in their first 10 to 15 years of child-bearing
capacity (i.e., between 15 and 30 years of age).
Table 2: Infant Mortality Rate of Tenetehara
As Table 2 shows, women in category 1 have had an average of nine
children each, of whom three died at age one or less; those of category
2 have had 7.3 children of whom 1.6 died; and the women in category 3 so
far have had four children of whom 2.8 died in their infancy. These are,
of course, high rates of infant mortality.
This data does not show how many children survive to adulthood.
However, further data shows that, on the average, one more child of the
women in category 1 died before reaching puberty and one more died in
early adulthood. Thus it can be concluded that out of nine children
at least four reached adulthood. If we assume that out of these four
young adults one more will die or otherwise not marry or bring up a
family as Tenetehara, we will come up with a rate of growth of population
reproducers in the order 2, 3, 4.5, 6.75 . . ., in short, a population
growth that should at, least double every two generations or every 30 to
40 years. This is congruent with the comparative data of Tenetehara
population statistics for 1942 (about 2,500, not 2,000 as Wagley and
Galvgo estimated), 1953 (3,000), and 1975 (4,300). To be more precise,
since these statistics include the Pindare region which has suffered a
population loss (due not only to deaths but also to assimilation to the
Brazilian society) from about 800 people in 1942 to about 340 in 1975
(Pindar^ and Caru Posts), we should compare the statistics for the villages
of the Bacurizinho Post. In 1953 this Post had a population of about 500
people and today it has 820 people which shows a population growth on the
order of 60 percent in 22 years. Thus it should double from the 1953
figure in nine to twelve more years, or by 1987. Of course if the health
conditions of the Tenetehara are improved by FUNAI, and barring the dis-
memberment of Tenetehara society, this population will increase at a higher
rate than has been the case in the past, unless methods of birth control
■• To conclude, the SPI/FUNAl program of medical assistance to the
Tenetehara has not been very successful; in fact it has been no more
effective than the program of protecting Tenetehara lands. Yet, both
programs have slowed down two trends which would probably have destroyed
the Tenetehara had they continued through the last 30 years. However,
these programs have neither neutralized these trends nor brought forth a
positive development of the Tenetehara as an ethnic group.
If these programs--which can Ije seen as promoting the basis for
Tenetehara ethnic survival--have not been fully effective, neither has the
program of economic incentives to develop Indian economy created by the
SPI. T}^e idea behind providing certain means for the economic develop-
ment of the Tenetehara is part of the ideology of the SPI/FUNAI which
favors the ultimate integration of the Tenetehara into the "national
community." This concept of integration, of course, is couched in terms
of a gradual process in which the culture of the Tenetehara (and Brazilian
Indians in general) should not be controlled or otherwise modified by SPI/
FUNAI. It should be made clear, however, that if the Tenetehara economy
were to become entirely like the Brazilian peasant economy, substantial
cultural changes would occur. Furthermore, if these changes were to
destroy the subsistence economy of the Tenetehara they would eventually
place the Tenetehara, like the peasant, under the control of the credit
system of Brazilian society. This could only result in the disintegration
of Tenetehara society and reduce them to a collection of peasant families.
Under certain conditions, however, Tenetehara economic development will not
ipso facto cause Tenetehara ethnic disintegration. These conditions will
be outlined in the final chapter of this dissertation. '
The implementation of economic incentives for the Tenetehara must
have been initiated in the very early years of SPI activity in MaranhSo, '
i.e., in the 1920s. . The first and most basic kind of such incentives
was in the form of gifts of iron implements, such as axes, machetes, and
sickles. Through such gifts the SPI established its function as the
mediator between the Tenetehara and Brazilian society. In fact, the
SPI came to think of itself as the "super patron" of the Indians. Part
of this role of super patron was to protect the Tenetehara from economic
exploitation by Brazilian traders. The officials of the SPI thought that
the way to neutralize such exploitation was by obliging the Tenetehara
to sell their products to Brazilians only indirectly, i.e., through the
SPI Post agent. This way the Tenetehara could obtain better prices for
their products than by selling directly to the traders (see Chapter VIII
for an analysis of Tenetehara trade economic relations). The Tenetehara,
however, saw things differently and as much as possible they continued to
do business directly with Brazilian traders with impunity (cf. Wagley and
t Axes and machetes were given to the Tenetehara of the Pindare region
from the 1930s until the early 1960s. These gifts were distributed to
individual heads of family, and gift giving was the way the Indian Post
agents promoted obligations of patron-cl ientship with the Tenetehara. '.
Although Wagley (1942) and Galvao (1945) witnessed such gift distribution
in the early 1940s, it is from an Indian agent of the Grajau region in the
early 1950s that I have obtained precise data on the amount of gifts and
the social significances thereof.
The Tenetehara of the Grajau region, too, began to receive gifts in
the 1930s but probably in smaller amounts than those of Pindare. The
economy of the Grajau region was rather precarious and the Sub-Regional
Office located in Barra do Corda did not generate an income as did the
Pindare Post in its role of economic broker. The SPI could only provide
economic incentives in areas where there were reasons for it. But from
the late 1940s on the Tenetehara of Grajau, particularly in the Bacurizinho
area, began to improve their economic situation as the economy of the
Grajau region began to expand. This expansion was brought about by the
increase of the Brazilian population of the region through immigration
and the contruction of roads connecting Grajau to Barra do Corda and
thence to Caxias and Sao Lufs. There was an increase in demand for
agricultural as well as extractive products, and the Tenetehara soon
began to dedicate more of their time to produce such goods for trade.
The Indian Post agent residing in the town of Grajau highly promoted
these activities by extending credit to the Tenetehara of his jurisdic-
tion. This agent was also instrumental in the creation of a lumber
"industry" for the Tenetehara of the villages of Bacurizinho, Ipu, and
Mangueira located in the Bacurizinho area. , '
In July 1953, at least 211 sets of axes, machetes, and sickles were
distributed by the Grajau agent to the Tenetehara of the Bacurizinho
area and the upper Zutiua area (Arariboia reservation). In addition,
one manioc grater and one copper griddle for manioc processing were given
to each of seven Tenetehara villages as well as to the Gavioes Indians'
village. Such distribution continued in December 1954 with 48 machetes,
72 knives, and 24 axes and in March 1955, when 121 sets of machetes, '
axes, and sickles were distributed. After that the distribution of such ■
goods was considerably curtailed, in 1957 it amount to only six machetes,
five axes, two hoes, and one pick. The last distribution for which I have
records comes from a report from the Pindare agent in 1963. The number of
goods distributed is not specified which indicates that they were probably
relatively few, for one thing, and that the agent distributed the available
goods to people whom he liked or otherwise needed favors from. At least
this is how the Tenetehara explained to me how Post agents allocated
such few goods. At any rate, FUNAI has abandoned the practice of distri-
buting tools and implements as a form of economic incentive.
From 1953 to about 1955 the Tenetehara of the Bacurizinho area
were persuaded by the Grajau agent to organize themselves into production
units to cut hardwoods found in the area into lumber. They were provided'
with two large hand saws and with cash or commodity credit by the agent.
They were expected to cut and saw the lumber and to sell it to the GrajaJ
agent who would then ship it to the SPI Regional Offices in Sao Luis.
The details of this operation are found in Chapter VIII. Suffice it to
say here that as long as it lasted it was a successful operation. In
fact, it was the only operation of the kind in the whole region of Grajad
and caused the envy of many local Brazilians. Several Tenetehara men of
the Bacurizinho area became involved in the lumber industry and one of
them was for awhile a kind of entrepreneur who organized the production
groups and a credit system for the Tenetehara. However, he did not come
to monopolize this production and several Tenetehara men continued to
deal directly with the Indian agent. The lumber industry tapered off
in 1957 when the agent was relocated to another town in Maranhao.
In the final analysis, the main consequence of the lumber industry
for the Tenetehara of the area was of a social rather than economic
nature. During this minor "boom" several Tenetehara men accumulated
considerable cash and consequently began to adopt certain Brazilian
customs which required the expenditure of this cash. A few Tenetehara
men learned how to play the accordion and Brazilian parties began to
substitute for Tenetehara dancing and singing used in the girls' initiation
rites. They also began to hunt exlusively with muzzle-loading guns and
to dress in Brazilian clothes. These habits brought forth a permanent
need for relating with Brazilians for economic purposes.
In the upper Zutiua (Araribdia) area the Grajau agent became the
principal promoter of the Tenetehara trade economy of forest products,
particularly skins, copafba oil, cumaru nuts, and .iutaicica and latoba
resins. During the 1950s, these extractive forest products were in high
demand by the Brazilian compradores in coastal towns and the Grajau agent
organized several villages on the Zutiua and Grajau Rivers to reliably
obtain these goods for him. Forest products and the lumber industry,
therefore, brought the whole Grajau region into "high" productivity.
The Grajau agent, as well as the Barra do Corda Sub-Regional Officer who
also reorganized these economic activities on a smaller scale for the
Tenetehara of his jurisdiction, were very important in enhancing the
mediating role of the SPI in the minds of both Brazilians and Tenetehara.
In the records of the Grajau agent, one often finds mention of problems
between Tenetehara and Brazilians concerning land use, theft, economic
exploitation, and fights. The agent seems consistently to have taken
the side of the Tenetehara and often made threats of "judicial sanctions"
against the Brazilians. It is fair to say that during the 1950s these
two SPI officers, even though they did not settle the basic problem of
land in a conclusive manner, were responsible for the fact that the
Tenetehara of the region did not suffer persecution either personal or
as a group by Brazilians, nor did they have Tenetehara lands taken away
The economic incentive program of the SPI in the Pindarg region]
however, brought disastrous consequences to the Tenetehara. In the late
1930s and 1940s this program was in the form of gift distribution, including
here gifts of canoes with which the Tenetehara of the upper Pindare River
would bring their products down river to the Post, or more often, to the
towns of Pindare-Mirim and the burgeoning settlement of Santa Ines and
the settlement of Colonia Pimental. The increasing population density
of Brazilians in the region brought unmitigating pressure upon Tenetehara
lands and the Tenetehara mode of production. This caused the dispersal
of villages and the process of apadrlnhageni ("becoming godchild to
someone") whereby a Tenetehara family would become attached to a Brazilian
patron who would supposedly provide them with their means of economic
survival. The Pindare Post agent, or rather agents, since the turnover '
rate of agents was rather high, were unable to check this process of
deculturation. In fact, the various other measures of economic incentive
only exacerbated this process.
A In addition to gift distribution, the Pindarl agents allowed Brazil-
ians to live in Tenetehara villages as traders and store keepers on the
assumption that they would motivate the Tenetehara to higher productivity.
Store keepers had small stores stocked with basic necessities , such as gun
powder, clothes, kerosene, salt, sugar, and sugar rum for sale or from ■
exchange for Tenetehara products. Whereas in the 1930s and early 1940s
a great portion of Tenetehara trade goods were surplus agricultural
products, which favored Tenetehara economic development and social cohesion,
with the onset of World War II (i.e., after 1942) the production of
b abagu nuts became foremost in the Tenetehara trade economy of the
Pindare region. The production of babagu nuts, which is an extractive
product, is done exclusively by nuclear families with no need at all for '
economic cooperation with other family groups. A great number of Tenete-
hara villages of the lower Pindare River and even of the upper Pindare,
therefore, dispersed into small groups. They became either attached or
dependents of Brazilian local residents or lingered on on the Pindare
reservation in a state of existence which a missionary linguist visiting
the area in 1962 called "utter social and moral apaty" (Samuel Bendor-
Smith, personal communication).
Furthermore, beginning at least in the early 1960s, the Pindare
agents began the practice of renting Tenetehara lands to local Brazilians.
Apparently this practice was sanctioned by the SPI Regional Office in
Sao Lu1s as part of the new SPI policy of economic self-support of every
Indian Post--a policy which has been called the "administrative 'mentality'
of the SPI." By imitation the dispersed Tenetehara families also began
to make use of this new source of income, thus increasing and sanctioning
the invasion of their lands by Brazilian peasants. FUNAI recently has
prohibited this practice as part of its efforts to evacuate Brazilian
invaders. This prohibitionhas brought complaints on the part of some ,
Tenetehara family heads who-like former Post agents-became accustomed to
easy revenues from this form of rent.
--f The "administrative mentality," or the policy of economic self-
support, of the SPI, was actually initiated in Maranhao in the 1940s in
the form of cattle raising. The SPI invested some capital from its budget
to purchase a few head of cattle from local Brazilians. These cattle
were then placed on the Indian Post lands under the supervision of the agent
and a hired cowboy. The Tenetehara living near the Post were excluded from
this enterprise; and in any case, they lacked interest in it since the
returns from their participation would amount only to free access to cow's
milk. The SPI cattle were considered the exclusive property of the SPI
(and by extension of the national patrimony of the Brazilian government),
and thus the offspring of the cattle could not be shared by whomever took
care of them. This went against the local Brazilian custom by which a
cattle owner grants one out of every four calves born to whomever tends
the herd. In short, the SPI provided no incentive for getting involved
with cattle raising. To enable the salaried cowboy to make ends meet he
consequently had to both be an agriculturalist and make illegal use of
the cattle. Selling cattle to local Brazilians, therefore, became the
norm of both the cowboy and the Post agent who were more often than not were
on close terms with one another. The easiest and safest way to do so
was to. report zero growth of the cattle population and make exchanges of
healthy, prize cattle for calves or old cows with local Brazilians, thus
obtaining cash to balance out the trade value of the cattle. The cash,
of course, would be pocketed by the Post agent and the cowboy. Both
Tenetehara and Brazilians, including the SPI commissioner, were aware of such
corruption, but no measures were taken to stop it.
In the 1940s the SPI had cattle placed on the lands of the Pindare
Post, the Guajajara Post (then called Manuel Rabelo), the Arariboia Post,
the village of Geralda on the Grajau River, and in the Bacurizinho area.
These last two places had neither a resident Indian agent nor a cowboy.
The Tenetehara were not paid for tending this cattle, which consisted
simply of given some salt provided by the SPI, as the cattle roamed at
will. The Tenetehara had been indoctrinated or intimidated enough by
the SPI to believe that it was their obligation to see to it that the
"national patrimony" be taken care of. That they did not comply with
this obligation as expected is certain. In 1956, the 19 head of cattle
in the Bacurizinho area were transferred to the Guajajara Post. The
cattle from village Geralda had previously been transported to the Arari- '
boia Post. The written correspondence between the Grajau agent and the
SPI commissioner in the 1950s records their concern with the question of
where to place the cattle of the Arariboia Post since apparently they
were not being well cared for there.
In 1956 the commissioner wrote the Grajad agent that the SPI had
20 cattle in the Arariboia Post (which had been reduced from 52 head in
previous years), 230 at the Guajajara Post (plus 41 horses, nine mules, •
68 donkeys, 78 sheep, 110 goats, 876 pigs, and 915 chickens-although it
is not clear if all of these belonged to the SPI or to individual Tenete-
hara), and over 100 cattle in the Pindare Post. Nowadays, the Pindare
Post still has about 250 head of cattle, and the Guajajara Post has
less than 50 head. The Bacurizinho Post recently acquired two bullocks
from the latter Post and has about 18 more cattle that belong to individual
Tenetehara and the Post agent. It is to the corrupt practices of agents
and commissioners (after 1963) that we can attribute the destruction of
this patrimony. Particularly scandalous was the action taken by a commissioner
in 1964 who visited the Tenetehara Indian Posts and sold the great majority
of the remaining cattle, allegedly for his own profit. The 250 cattle
herd at the Pindare Post has remained a source of revenue for almost all
agents and commissioners. Punitive actions against these plunderers
were occasionally taken by a commissioner who was at odds with the Post
agent but no substantial changes have come about.
What is most detrimental to the Tenetehara in this cattle enterprise
is not necessarily the fact that the Tenetehara are exploited because
their lands are used without any compensation, nor the corrupt examples
set by the SPI/FUNAI authorities, nor even the fact that this practice
only continues the ideology of paternalism and political control over
the Tenetehara. What is most detrimental to the Tenetehara is the fact
that often the cattle wander into Tenetehara gardens and destroy the
whole of one's seasonal labor in a matter of hours. There is no compensa-
tion when that happens because the Tenetehara themselves are expected to
fence their gardens to protect them from such an eventuality. Moreover,
if in an outburst of anger, a Tenetehara maims or kills a cow caught
in flagrante in his garden, he is expected to pay the SPI/FUNAI the value
of the damage. Although this policy is not enforced, it nevertheless
places the Tenetehara culprit on the defensive and in the potential
situation to receive other forms of punishment. This is one more cause
of the insecure state in which the Tenetehara of the Pindare Post find
themselves, and which contributes to the general low agricultural produc-
tivity and the consequent state of social apathy of the area. But even
in areas such as Bacurizinho which has only 20 cattle, fences must be
constructed and problems constantly arise over the trespass of certain
cattle (called gado roceiro because they always manage to get into the
ro£as or gardens) into the gardens. In 1965 some Tenetehara of the
Bacurizinho area acquired some cattle through the calf sharing practice,
perhaps as many as 100 head, by allowing a local cattleowner to graze his
cattle on Tenetehara lands. By 1972, the great majority of this herd had
been killed by Tenetehara neighbors who had had their gardens invaded.
In short, it seems unfeasible for the Tenetehara themselves to own cattle
under present practices of raising and tending them; the cattle enterprise
of the SPI/FUNAI, therefore, becomes an imposition on the Tenetehara, with
only adverse effects on their subsistence activities.
Having seen the limited results of the programs of land security,
health maintenance, and economic incentives, we may now briefly examine
the education program, or rather programs, of the SPI and FUNAI for the
Tenetehara. The idea behind "educating" the Indian dates back to the
mission system of colonial times. Through this period as well as the
period immediately preceding the creation of the SPI, to educate the
Indian meant to integrate the Indian into the lov;er strata of the Brazilian
society; it meant, in fact, to transform the Indian into a peasant. The
positivistic ideology of the SPI appears to have given margin to reelabora
tions of previous concepts of Indian integration into the national society
As formulated by an early SPI director, Luiz Bueno Horta Barbosa, the
purpose of the SPI was not to make a peasant out of the Indian, but "to
make the Indian a better Indian" (in Ribeiro 1962:133). Notwithstanding
the elusiveness of this formulation it seems to have meant that the
Indian should be given some education so that he could function in his
society as well as have knowledge of the Brazilian society, or better,
of Western civilization (cf. Ribeiro 1962:155-158).
It seems to have been in this idealistic spirit that the SPI
instituted an education program for the Tenetehara In 1940. A Brazilian
teacher was sent to the Pindar^ Indian Post in 1941 to set up a school
in the Post village to teach Tenetehara children. When Wagley and Galvao
visited this village the teacher was trying her best to stimulate interest
in her pupils for such subjects as geography, Brazilian history, arith-
metic, as well as writing and reading Portuguese. Considering that the
teaching methods and textbooks that she used were the same as those used
for Brazilians she was obviously not successful in this endeavor (Wagley
and Galvao 1949:13). In 1943, she was transferred to the Guajajara Indian
Post near Barra do Corda and subsequently to the Arariboia Post in 1948,
and finally to the Tenetehara village of Ipu located in the Bacurizinho
area in 1953. There she taught until her retirement in 1970. During this
period (1941-70) this woman was practically the only Brazilian who became
a permanent teacher for the Tenetehara. Other Brazilians taught in other
Posts for shorter periods of time, in general no more than two or three
years. During her tenure in the Ipu village she managed to make at least
four Tenetehara men literate in Portuguese. These men are now among the
17 monitores, or bilingual teachers, presently teaching their fellow
Tenetehara under the education program recently created by FUNAI.
In Chapter I, I briefly outlined the creation of the FUNAI bilingual
education program in 1972 and some of the problems involved in administering
it. Foremost among these is the question of allocating funds to pay for
the school lunch and the salaries of the monitores. In addition, there
exists considerable difficulties with the question of monitores filling
out monthly reports of their activities in the classroom. These reports
must include statistics on the percentage of student attendance versus
days taught, a task which involves more knowledge of mathematics than
the monitores have. During the months of August to December, 1975, the .
monitores took at least five days to fill their reports out; in fact,
they could not compute the percentages required and had to ask someone
else to do it for them. A few of them had to go to Sao Luis exclusively
for the purpose of filling out those reports. Such a waste of time and
money caused distress and anxiety for the monitores, and one of them had
to be eliminated by FUNAI because he was unable, after a great deal of
instruction, to fill oii his reports to the satisfaction of the program
coordinator. These problems apart (and it seems to me that they could
be easily overcome by elimination), the bilingual education program has
been highly regarded by the Tenetehara themselves. The fact that the
teachers are themselves Tenetehara and that classes are taught in both
Portuguese and Tenetehara are the main reasons for the success of the
program. In and of itself this is an unprecedented event in the history
of Indian-Brazilian relations, and FUNAI can duly claim credit for creating
it. It remains to be seen how long it will continue and what effects it
will have on the next generation of Tenetehara. At the present time, the
appearance of Tenetehara salaried employees is being felt principally in
the economy of the Tenetehara, as we will see in Chapter VIII.
To illustrate the mediating role of the SPI/FUNAI on the other
aspects of Tenetehara-Brazilian relations, a few examples will be pre-
sented. Until the late 1940s, the transportation facilities in the town
of Grajaci, as center of the economy of its vast county, were very undeveloped
and slow. One way of transporting its agricultural products and obtaining
manufactured goods was through muleteering, that is, transporting goods
by mule trains back and forth to towns of commercial entrepot, such as
Caxias on the Itapecuru River and Carolina on the Tocantins River. The
other means of transportation was man-powered canoes going up and down
the Grajau River to the town of Vitoria on the Mearim River, which was
a stopping point on the way to Sao Lufs. Muleteering was carried out
exclusively by Brazilians, although Tenetehara and other Indians might
help at certain intervals along the way, particularly if cattle were
being transported. Canoe transportation on the Grajau River, however,
was powered by Tenetehara Indian labor, although poor Brazilian peasants
were also involved.
The canoes were actually quite large, measuring about 60. feet by
10 feet, and were manned by 16 paddlers and one captain who steered and
who was in charge of the operation. From Grajau they carried bales of
cotton, wild skins, hides, and babacu nuts, and from Vito^ria they brought
salt, kerosene, fabrics, guns, and other such necessities. The canoes
were owned by local storeowners and sometimes by an enterprising land-
owner of Grajau. In the 1940s each of the 16 paddlers were paid 30$000
(about U.S. $1.50) per round trip, which took 15 to 30 days depending on
the water level of the Grajau River. Food was also part of the crew's
wages but sugar rum, a necessary item of consumption, was charged to the
crew by the owner of the canoe, or the captain, as the case might be.
According to my informants, the 30$000 wages could buy only a set of
clothes for a man and a woman and some gun powder and gun shot (See also
Wagley 1942). Invariably every crew member became indebted to the canoe
owner because these wagers were never quite sufficient to pay for other
commodities bought on credit in the canoe owner's store.
What was most appalling about the canoe transportation system, how-
ever, was not that it was a form of indentured labor, but the conditions
of work. The Grajau River is rather shallow in its middle and upper
courses, and even during the rainy season it has many shallow spots and
rapids through which such heavily loaded canoes must pass. The risk of
overturning, therefore, is rather high. Moreover, on the way upriver,
the sheer power of paddling is not sufficient to move the canoes up
through these obstacles. Therefore, at many points up and down the river,
the crew of paddlers had to get out of the canoe and into the water in
order to push it up or move it down safely. To push the canoe up river
the crew had to use poles 15 feet long by four inches in diameter, one
end of which was placed in notches on each side of the canoe and the other
was firmed against the breast of the paddle-pusher. One can imagine
the pressure of such canoes on the pectoral muscles of the crew, and when
the canoe accidently moved to one side the crew on that side would receive
the full pressure of it. Many crewmen, therefore, were literally impaled
or lost an arm, broke a jaw, or were tossed downriver when such accidents
happened. Moreover, malarial fevers and other diseases picked up through
such extreme work conditions, with poor diet and little rest, added up to
take a heavy toll on the crew. Almost every Tenetehara family of the
Grajau region, including those living along the Zutiua and Mearim Rivers,
can name a close relative who died "pushing canoes." And those crewmen
who survived bear the scars of this toil in a visible roundish depression
on their pectoral muscles.
To counteract this form of labor the SPI, after many complaints
from the Tenetehara of the region first made it obligatory as part of the
contract of recruitment that the canoe owner provide four meals a day to
the Tenetehara crewmen, and that two of these meals should have coffee
and sugar. This was actually an improvement recognized by the Tenetehara
themselves, and apparently it was carried out. Finally, perhaps two or
three years later, that is, by 1950, the Tenetehara were forbidden by the
SPI to hire themselves out as crewmen. This order entailed also the
annulment of any and all debts that the Tenetehara had incurred to the
storeowners through the canoe business. It is not clear whether or not
the SPI paid these debts, but the Tenetehara talk of this time as a "liber
ation" for they had indeed run up large debts.
The SPI agent in Grajau and the commissioner in Sao Lufs who were
responsible for this action have since boasted of it as an act of courage
and of genuine concern for the welfare of the Tenetehara. The canoe
business is referred to by them as the "Indian murdering machine" ( maquina
de matar fndio). Indeed one may say that this is a positive example of
the mediating and protective role of the SPI/FUNAI. But one should not
be blind to the fact that this action was taken only after some 30 years
of labor recruitment. Moreover this was done at precisely the time when
the means of transportation of the region were being improved with the
construction of dirt roads, when canoe transportation was actually on the
decline. It seems that it was finished altogether by 1951 or 1952, as
there are no more records of it after that time.
the Tenetehara farther away from the town. Although the land on which
Morro Branco was located was municipal land, the townspeople and incoming
Brazilians began to demarcate plots around the village and register
these plots as private property. The Tenetehara progressively lost their
de facto right to use this land and therefore began to move away. Those
who stayed were able to make a living only by hiring themselves to the
townspeople to do such jobs as fetch water and firewood, as domestics,
and as wage laborers in clearing and planting the gardens of the towns-
people or the landowners nearby. Three Tenetehara women in the mid-
1950s became prostitutes for the townsmen even though they continued to
live in the last permanent houses of the village.
Coupled with this prostitution, a few Tenetehara men apparently
resorted to begging in the streets, thus causing a scandal in the SPI
Regional Office since the agent from Barra do Corda began to accuse the
Grajau agent of being responsible for this situation. Indian prostitu-
tion itself, if effected inside the village may not be a matter for great
moral alarm on the part of local SPI ideology, but accusation that one's
Indians are begging for food shakes the whole credibility of an agent
and ultimately the image of the SPI in the eyes of local Brazilians.
This accusation against the Grajau agent, the validity of which was
probably unfounded, caused the agent first, to try to marry off the
Tenetehara prostitutes , two of whom he seemed to have succeeded with, and
second, to eliminate Morro Branco. However, as he was transferred to
another town, he did not succeed in the second instance.
To this day Morro Branco continues to be a place of lodging for
the Tenetehara, but it has now shrunk to one single house structure
with a roof and no walls. Even the nearby water source is now within
Another example of the SPI/FUNAI mediating role is taken from the
Grajau region. It seems that as a result of .labor recruitment for the
canoe business, several Tenetehara families moved permanently to a place
across the river from the town of Grajau in the 1920s. There they
planted their gardens and even sugar cane to sell to local storeowners
and of course the men became engaged in the canoe business. There, was
a close relationship between Tenetehara and local Brazilians, a relation-
ship that involved not only economic transaction but also social inter-
course. Several Brazilians married Tenetehara women and many Tenetehara
families became assimilated as peasants on the lands of the local land-
owners. And while their Tenetehara husbands were away on the canoe
trips, many Tenetehara women were used sexually by local Brazilians who
would throw parties in the Tenetehara village for this purpose. Thus
a certain proportion (in addition to the intermixture of the late
nineteenth century) of Brazilian genes in the Tenetehara population dates
to this period between 1920 and 1950.
With the growth of the town of Grajau, even such growth as was
brought by the canoe business, the Tenetehara across the river were
progressively forced to move to another locality a couple of miles
away from the town itself. This new site, called Morro Branco, became
not only a permanent village, but also a place where Tenetehara from
other villages would lodge when they came to Grajau to trade or work in
the canoes. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Morro Branco had a population
of perhaps 60 to 80 Tenetehara living in ten to fifteen houses.
When the SPI became established in Grajau" in the 1940s, and after
the end of the canoe business in the early 1950s, it began to be
pressured by local townspeople to abolish this settlement and to move
the confines of a fenced plot belonging to a Brazilian peasant. The
importance of Morro Branco or a place for the Tenetehara to stay in
Grajau has been stressed by every Tenetehara to the SPI/FUNAI authorities.
Nothing has been done about it and in fact, FUNAI, like SPI, thinks that
it should be eliminated. In this respect, the ideology of SPI was that
the Indian would only be corrupted by living near Brazilian towns. The
FUNAI ideology is also built on this assumption—whether or not it applies
to the Morro Branco case--and is furthered by the policy that the Tenete-
hara should live on reservation lands and that no other lands should be
allocated to them, whether or not this land is and has been theirs de facto
There is no provision in the FUNAI land program for the legalization of
Morro Branco as Indian land. One can interpret this lack of concern
not only as an attitude of convenience since the legalization of Morro
Branco would be one more job to do, but also as an attitude of holding
to a rigid policy which excludes the point of view and special interests
of the Tenetehara.
A final example of the mediating role of FUNAI also comes from the
Grajau region. In June 1972, a labor recruiter from Imperatriz, a town
on the Tocantins River which was experiencing stupendous economic and
population growth due to the construction of the Beleln-Brasi 1 ia Highway
which passes through it, came to Grajau and convinced ten Tenetehara
men to come with him to work on the cattle ranch of a rich man near
Imperatriz. They were to be paid the standard regional daily wage plus
room and board. Their work would be to cut down the forest of the
ranch land in order to turn it into pasture land. Such offers and
conditions of work are no cause for alarm, and labor recruitment of this
sort has been a common occurrence in Northern Brazil for the last six or
seven years. It is part of the national program to develop that area of
Brazil by means of large capitalist enterprises. Clearing the forest
to make pasture lands for cattle raising is the most common enterprise
in this development.
X The ten Tenetehara men were taken by truck to the ranch near Impera-
triz, a distance of about 150 miles from Grajau. A few days later local
Brazilians spread rumors that the Tenetehara had been "enslaved," that
they were not going to receive any money for their work, and that they
might even be killed by the ranch's foreman. This was a possibility
with basis in fact, according to many of my Brazilian informants, since
it had happened to a number of Brazilians who had been recruited to work
in far-away places. Soon the wives and daughters of these men began
to pressure their fellow-villagers to take this matter to FUNAI. The
Post agent then contacted the Sixth Regional Office in Sao Luis which
then reported the matter to the Federal Police. Finally, fifteen days
after the "kidnapping" of the ten Tenetehara men, the Federal Police,
with the FUNAI commissioner and. assistants , marched onto the ranch to
rescue the Tenetehara. Then a truck was hired to take these men back
to Grajau. FUNAI later claimed that the Tenetehara men were paid for
their work, but the Tenetehara themselves disclaim this assertion.
Here, once again, is an example of the positive role of FUNAI.
And, once again, one should take notice of the elements of this role:
pressure from the Tenetehara, public opinion, the need to save face,
the claim to patronage, and the undertones of financial self-interest
on the part of the individuals who form FUNAI. Politically speaking,
what is most interesting in the present situation of the Sixth Regional
Office of FUNAI is its alliance with the Federal Police. During SPI
times there was no such help except from the Army in more remote areas.
In fact, the SPI was always clashing with local interest and the local
The Federal Police has played a most ruthless role in defending
the interests of the old and new landowners against the dispossessed
peasants in Maranhao in recent years. It has played a more attenuated
role in defense of the Tenetehara concerning these conditions of labor
recruitment and against the Brazilian peasants who invaded Tenetehara
lands. FUNAI finds in the Federal Police a most helpful hand in
these situations and tries its best to please them. Thus when the Federal
Police began to crack down on the production and traffic of marijuana in
Maranhao, FUNAI allowed it to make any raids or arrest of Tenetehara
villages and villagers suspect of selling marijuana. This of course
goes against the FUNAI policy that Indian cultural ways should not be
tampered with. In fact, as far as Tenetehara use of marijuana is con-
cerned, the policy-making body of FUNAI in Brasilia was divided on the
issue: one group continued to uphold the liberal policy of interpreting
this matter as part of Tenetehara culture, while the other proposed a
strict prohibition of marijuana use.
At any rate, it is quite clear that the Sixth Regional Office is
eager to continue its close relations with the Federal Police. If the
threat of imprisonment and death from the Federal Police were to end,
the Brazilian peasants at the present time would probably use violence,
even annihilation, against the Tenetehara. On the other hand, FUNAI,
or should I say the liberal elements that comprise it, should be aware
of the function of the Federal Police as an enforcing organ of Brazilian-
political power. Were the present policy to tip towards the peasants or
even more toward the indiscriminate "developmental" strategy that favors
cattle ranching and agribusiness, the Federal Police would not have any
qualms about turning against the Tenetehara. FUNAI, because- of the
many contradictions that plague it, is therefore merely a passive organ
of protection. Its mediating role, its actual power to mediate between
the Tenetehara and the changing Brazilian society, has become less and
This decreasing influence is one not only in absolute terms, that
is, in comparison with other organs of the Brazilian government, but in
relative terms, that is, in comparison with the influence of the SPI
in the 1940s and 1950s. This decline can be seen in the slowness with
which FUNAI is able to legalize Indian lands, in the debacle of its
program to improve the economic conditions of the Indians (craft indus-
try or cattle raising, but not agriculture), in the lack of an efficient
health program for the Indians, in the policy of excluding Indian partici
pation in the policy making process--and ultimately in the low esteem
with which it is held by Brazilians and Indians alike. All of this--
but with the exception of the bilingual education program— makes one
want to agree with the claims of former SPI agents that despite the
smaller staff and budget, the SPI at least until the 1950s was more
effective than the present day FUNAI.
But in the final analysis the SPI and FUNAI are but one organ at
different times of Brazilian Indian policy. They are determined by the
conditions of the Brazilian political structure and there is no escaping
the fact that the Indian plays a small part in the modern Brazilian
society, as far as the national policy makers are concerned. Therefore,
the SPI/FUNAI should always be seen as an organ of contradictions:
purported to be "in favor" of the Indian, it is and can only be in favor
of the Indian inasmuch as it does not affect the power structure of a
society which does not favor the Indian. Throughout the 65 years of
SPI/FUNAI history the resolutions of this contradiction have been
generally to the detriment of the Indian. On the other hand, without
,the SPI/FUNAI, there would not be even a contradiction, only a clear
negative attitude toward the Indians, and the consequences thereof. The
SPI/FUNAI, in sum, is the lesser of two evils, and as such it is needed
by the Indian.
Thus the Tenetehara have been brought to the present conditions in
which they find themselves, conditions which were sketched in Chapters
I and II. The purpose of these last three chapters was threefold: first,
to illustrate the ethnohi story of the Tenetehara, i.e., the changes and
developments of their society through the 362 years of contact with the
encroaching (Western) Brazilian society. Second, to show that these
changes occur in response to these forces of contact, a response that
contains an important element of reaction, not just passive adaptation.
And third, the body of data presented here will serve as a point of
reference from which the analyses presented in the following chapters
TENETEHARA ECONOMIC SYSTEM: AN OVERVIEW
In. the preceding three chapters the ethnohi story of the Tenetehara
has been analyzed in terms of the dialectical relations between Tenetehara
and Brazilian society. The analysis has focused on the kinds of relations
that, developed between these two societies according to the social and
economic conditions existing during various historical phases of the
formation of the Brazilian society and according to the reaction of the
Tenetehara society to these particular conditions. This reaction was'
interpreted both in terms of adaptation and conflict. On a different
level of analysis this reaction expressed itself through the kinds of
social and economic relations that developed between Tenetehara and
Brazilians. It need not be further elaborated that these relations stem
from the structures of each society and that these structures are in
a constant process of change due to both internal and external causes.
The distinction between "social" and "economic" activities of a
society is necessarily an analytical, not an empirical, one. It
arises from a basic concept of society as an entity that needs to
reproduce itself (hence the social) as well as to produce its means of
livelihood (thus the economic). In each of these basic societal func-
tions one can perceive a structure of regulation of the mechanisms that
constitute them. The components of each of these structures can be the
same for both but there can also be other analytical components in one
which are not present in another. Hence there is a need to analyze them
Keeping in mind, therefore, the distinction between the "social"
and the "economic," this chapter is concerned with the economic relations
of the Tenetehara both within their society and in relation to Brazilian
society. By economic relations it is meant the relations among the
Tenetehara and between Tenetehara and Brazilians, which are strictly
concerned with the production, distribution , and consumption of those
goods and services which provide the material maintenance of Tenetehara
society. Economic relations are the empirical level of the analysis
presented here; they concern the behavior between two persons or categories
of persons. On the analytical level, the totality of economic relations
form the economic system, or the system that is concerned with the material
provisioning of the society.
The economic system of the Tenetehara is formed by two structures
which are in a dialectical relationship to one another. The first is
the internal Tenetehara economy or the set of economic relations that
take place exclusively among the Tenetehara. The second is the trade
economy or the set of economic relations which have resulted from the
contact between Tenetehara and Brazilians. One can, for analytical
purposes, describe each structure as an entity separate from the other,
but in empirical reality they are a single totality, and in the minds
of the Tenetehara they constitute a single reality. Moreover, the
structural categories of the economic system, i.e., production, distri-
bution, and consumption (of goods and services), vary and are changed
according to the changes in the two economic structures. Although these
two economies are in a dialectical relation to one another, with the
basis of the trade economy resting upon the internal economy, it is the
trade economy which plays the most important role in determining the
mechanisms of the internal economy and consequently the Tenetehara
economic system as a whole.
X The categories of production, distribution, and consumption are
interlinked with one another as phases of a single process. Theoretically,
in the internal economy of the Tenetehara, the categories of production
and consumption are one and the same, since every unit of production is
potentially self-sufficient, and therefore, the consumer of its products.
This, however, does not preclude the exchange of goods between production
units, notwithstanding the theoretical rudundancy of such action. Goods
are exchanged between production units, or the category of distribution
is at play, because of other factors such as social ones which are not
necessarily economic. These social factors, such as reciprocity and
marital alliances, have to do with the process of integrating the.
independent production units into a social body, a society, and preventing
them from dispersing as a logical conclusion of their self-sufficiency
(cf. Sahlins 1972: Ch. II and III).
. Thus in the analysis of the internal economy of the Tenetehara, the '
categories production (consumption) and distribution will be analyzed
as structures of a system which will be referred to as "the mode of
production." To be congruent with the Marxist terminology then, what
has been so far called here "production" and "distribution" are equivalent
to Marx's production forces and production relations. These latter
concepts are more general and encompassing, and therefore, will be used
Production or production forces encompass several factors:
(1) natural resources which are utilized by the society and which
encompass the ecological factors of availability of land, land fertility,
flora, fauna, climate, and so on; (2) production units or the groups
of people who actually go about the process of producing; (3) technical
norms which encompass not only the given knowledge of the natural
resources utilized but also the techniques and tools by which these
resources are transformed into consumable economic and cultural goods;
(4) the level of productivity, that is, whether or not the production
units can manage an economic surplus beyond the internal needs of the
In a similar sense, production relations constitute a structure
composed of the following factors: (1) division of labor within the
production units, in the case of the Tenetehara (until recently),
along sex and age lines. (2) Social division of labor, that is, the
existence of production units as separate entities, each with a differ-
ent function. This is essentially the economic, basis of what one might
call social stratification and until recently it existed only in the
person of the shaman who performed a special kind of labor function.
(3) Forms of distribution, that is, the mediation between the indepen-
dent production units through reciprocity (generalized, balanced, and
negative [cf. Sahlins 1972: Ch. V]), redistribution and exchange
(cf. Polanyi, 1957). (4) Economic alienation of labor, or the disparity
between production and consumption, as consumption units begin to
differentiate in certain aspects from the production units, due to the
rise of a trade economy. This factor essentially relates to the expro-
priation of the labor power of an individual £er se^ or a production unit
without due recompensation of the value of this labor, whether the value
is determined by the internal or the trade economy. (5) Ethnic system
or the relations between Tenetehara villages within a particular area
as caused by economic factors such as variability in the resources of
villages, and the consequent different kinds of relations which particular
villages have with Brazilians through the trade economy.
To sum up this theoretical framework, Figure 4 illustrates how the
categories, concepts, and factors are interrelated as structures in
Before proceeding to analyze the Tenetehara economic system we
need to define the factors enumerated above in terms of their consti-
tuent elements which form the reality of Tenetehara society through
(1) Resources :
The elements that constitute this factor have already been listed
in general terms. Suffice it to mention further that the avail-,
ibility of land has become in modern times an element with problem-
atic aspects, as the question of land competition intensifies.
(2) Production Units :
(a) Nuclear family: formed by a man, his wife (or wives),
unmarried children, one parent (of either the man or his wife),
and one or several unmarried relatives. The minimal unit is
formed by the man, one wife, and unmarried children, but the exis-
tence of the other three components, which could be called poly-
gynous, stem, and composite families, is analyzed here as nuclear
family because in Tenetehara society these variants work all the
same as a single production unit.
^^'S^'^e 4- Hierarchical Levels of Economic Anal v
Mode of Production
(2) Production Units
(3) Technical Norms
(1) Division of Labor.
(2) Social Division of Labor
(3) Distribution redistribution
(4) Economic Alienation of Labor
(5) Ethnic System
(b) Extended family: formed by two or more nuclear families
who produce jointly under the direction of the head of one of
the nuclear families.. This joint production does not have to
include all the economic activities of the Tenetehara nuclear
family but it must include the production of gardens and the
use of garden products and/or the production of goods intended'
for the trade economy.
(c) Communal production: this is the largest production unit
of Tenetehara society and concerns the joint labor of all men
and women of a village. This type of production is directed
to such activities as fishing with poison sap, hunting to
obtain game meat for ceremonial purposes, and, in modern
times, demarcating the boundaries of Tenetehara lands (the
last two activities are exclusively male endeavors).
( 3 ) Technical Norms :
(a) Knowledge of the environment: soils, climatic changes,,
(b) Tools: stone axe, iron implements (ax, machete, sickle);
bow and arrow, muzzle-loading guns, shot guns; basketry.
(c) Techniques: slash-and-burn cultivation; food processing;
hunting by tocaia , by stalking, by driving game to dry i.slands;
fishing by poison sap; by hook and line; by bow and arrow;
collecting fruits, resins, and tree oils; weaving.
(4) Productivity :
The quantification of this factor is presented in the economic
analysis at various historical phases. The basic level or produc-
tivity is defined as the quantity of goods produced to support
the internal economy. The concept of economic surplus is analyzed
in terms of the excess production of the internal economy in
relation to the demands of the trade economy. Surplus of the internal
economy in itself, whether it occurs accidentally or intentionally,
is disregarded and considered non-existent in this analysis because
there are no social mechanisms to capitalize on it (cf. Pearson
1957; Dalton 1962). ■ . '
Division of Labor :
(a) In the nuclear family unit it is determined by sex: the men
hunt, clear and plant gardens and construct houses; the women
harvest, process food, do basketry, and make hammocks. Fishing
and collecting is done by both sexes. In modern times this divi-
sion tends to be less delineated particularly in the areas of
production for the trade economy, as will be seen.
(b) In the extended family unit the age factor comes into play.
The head of this unit is in charge of pooling labor for partic-
ular activities and disposing of the labor produce as he sees
fit. When this production is intended for the trade economy, then
one can speak of alienation of the labor products of the producers
by the head producer, although this is not a necessary development.
(c) In the communal production the division of labor is along
sex lines as in the nuclear fmaily unit; division along age lines
also takes place.
(2) Social Division of Labor :
This has been identified as the economic basis of social strati-
fication. The presence of shamans as specialists, however, does
not bring about stratification. This office of shaman is not
transmitted through lines of succession but is acquired by men and,
to a lesser extent by women, according to personal proclivities.
The office of village chief ( capitao ) is not an aboriginal trait
of the Tenetehara, as far as can be determined, but rather
an imposition by the Brazilian society through the trade economy;
although it is most often transmitted through the extended family
it does not take on characteristics of class or rank. Recent
developments of the trade economy have brought forth the appear-
ance of economically influential headmen of extended families,
a basis for rank stratification. However, the fluctuations of
the trade economy (the "boom and bust" cycle) together with
mechanisms of economic levelling preclude the crystallization of
rank formation. The very recent appearance of moni tores, or
salaried bilingual teachers, can give rise to rank formation,
but there are too many other variables present for it to be
possible to assume such a development.
(3) Distribution :
This is the mechanism for circulating goods internally and exter-
nally in, the Tenetehara economic system. In the internal economy,
goods are circulated by generalized and balanced reciprocity between
production units. The latter type is postulated to have arisen
due to the trade economy. Within the extended family production
units redistribution is the norm, but it may come in the form of
negative reciprocity since economic alienation of labor may take
place. However, that occurs only due to -the production of a sur-
plus and the personal amibition of the head producer. Within the'
nuclear family, distribution is effected through both positive
. reciprocity and redistribution, the distinction between these two
forms being rather unimportant in this analysis. Between the
internal and the trade economies, negative reciprocity is historically
the first form to arise. As the Tenetehara begin to become aware
of the market and the competition between Brazilian traders,
balanced reciprocity comes into play, first in the form of patron-
client economic relations and then through market exchange. From
the point of view of the value of Tenetehara labor, of course,
patron-clientship and market exchange are forms of expropriations
of this labor. By reason of the class structure that underlies
the market mechanism in the Brazilian society, the labor of Indians
and peasants are most often undervalued and underpriced. Patron-
clientship and market exchange are viewed here as balanced reci-
procity only from the standpoint of the necessary economic rela-
tions that exist in the Brazilian class society. If one were to
speak in an absolute and critical sense, these relations should
be termed negative, particularly as far as the Tenetehara are
concerned. However, keeping in mind the relative sense used here,
negative reciprocity occurs only in the early stages of patron-
clientship at a time when the Tenetehara were unaware of the
exchange value of the goods in trade. Negative reciprocity is
also used in the sense of theft, plunder, and other kinds of •
Economic Alienation of Labor :
Alienation of one's labor products can exist within the production
units, as for instance when a woman makes a hammock which is sold
by her husband to buy a gun. But this type of alienation is not
sufficiently charged with social consequences beyond the production
unit because the gun is used to obtain game to feed the family.
What is considered here is the alienation of the labor product of
a nuclear family by the head of the extended family of which the
former is a part. This has occurred in certain phases of high
productivity of the trade economy. One of the consequences of
this alienation is the eventual breakdown of the extended family.
One can speak of the contradiction of the nuclear versus the
extended family precisely in this context. The expropriation of
Tenetehara labor as a whole by the Brazilian society, as stated
in factor 3 above, is included in economic alienation of labor.
Ethnic System :
The largest production unit of the Tenetehara is the village which
is, with minor exceptions, self-sufficient in its interal economy.
But economic relations between villages are carried on through
nuclear or extended family units. Due to circumstances of varia-
bility of resources and/or the type of trade economy certain villages
acquire a' superior economic position in relation to other villages.
Here lies the economic basis for the rise of village ranking.
But as with social ranking the process never becomes established.
Under this heading will be seen also how "territory" is delimited
by each village in relation to another nearby. Of course the
population size and density during particular historical phases
has already been seen in the preceding chapters. Economic relations
between villages through their production units are subsumed under
social relations and take place in social ceremonies.
The concept of trade economy has been defined in Chapter II as the
economic as well as social mediator between Tenetehara and Brazilian
society. The modes of economic relations in the trade economy have been
described also in terms of the phases of slavery (1613-1652), serfdom
(1653-1755), and patron-cl ientship ( 1840-1975). In the first
two modes of economic relations the predominant characteristic is the
use of Tenetehara labor as labor alienated from the mechanisms of the
internal economy, that is, as non-free labor. This does not mean that
during these times the Tenetehara internal economy stopped operating;
rather it became ancillary to the trade economy. Tenetehara labor in
these trade economies provided almost absolute surplus-value to the
controllers of the trade economies, whereas their internal economies
continued to exist in order to maintain the bare livelihood of the
Tenetehara. With the rise of patron-client economic relations, Tenete-
hara labor was, in a sense, set free. Thus the internal economy
becomes the predominant economy, the trade economy being anci 11 ary to it .
Tenetehara labor used in this trade economy is Tenetehara surplus-labor.
In other words, the conditions of unfree versus free labor make the
relations between the internal and the trade economies the exact oppo-
site in the mode of patron-client economic relations from the preceeding
In the mode of patron-client economic relations (defined in Chapter V)
one can distinguish two types of trade economies: one in which the
production of agricultural goods predominate, and the other which is.
directed toward the production of extractive forest goods. Although
there has always existed some overlapping in the types of production for
exchange in all areas where the Tenetehara have entered into economic
relations with the Brazilian society, one can nonetheless distinguish
areas of Tenetehara trade economies according to the predominance of
the agricultural trade economy or the extractive trade economy. It will
be recalled that the agricultural trade economy is found in areas near
Brazilian towns or settlements, such as on the lower Pindare River and
on the upper Mearim River near Barra do Corda and Grajau. Extractive
trade economies are found on the upper Pindare and Zutiua Rivers, the
Gurupi River, and in the State of Para.
The features that distinguish these two types of trade economies
have been described as of a predominantly social nature. In the agri-
cultural type the Brazilian agents (compradores and store owners) of
this trade economy impose obligations of exclusive exchange without
affecting the Tenetehara agents within their own society. Moreover,
the relative abundance of patrons in these towns gives the Tenetehara
a certain leeway in shifting allegiance. On the other hand, the extrac-
tive trade economy generally tends to affect the mechanisms of the
internal economy because it demands goods that are outside the orbit
of the internal economy. _A Tenetehara production unit that goes into
the forest to obtain copaiba oil, resins, babagu nuts, or skins, cannot
at the same time produce gardens to maintain the internal economy.
Thus there is a tendency for the rise of dependency on agricultural
goods that are not produced by the interal economy. This process has
been well documented by Murphy (1960:18-23) for the Mundurucu who were
engaged in the production of rubber, and one can safely say that many
other Indian groups in rubber areas suffered a similar type of constraint.
For the Tenetehara the extractive trade economy was less destructive
because the external demand for the extractive products found in their
area was not as forceful as the demand for rubber in other regions of
lowland Brazil. In this analysis I will present some economic data on
the mechanisms of the extractive trade economy which will illustrate
both the differences between this type of economy and the agricultural
type, as well as the progressive integration of the Tenetehara into the
market system through their increased knowledge of the mechanisms of
This knowledge is expressed here in terms of the distinction between
production for use-value and production for exchange-value, or simple
circulation of commodities versus circulation of commodities as capital.
One need not elaborate on the fact that circulation (or distribution)
of goods in the Tenetehara internal economy is of the simple type of
circulation: the Tenetehara produce use-value goods and exchange them
for similar goods with use-value. Historically, this exchange is
effected first through generalized reciprocity and later through balanced
reciprocity. In the latter form, to give an example, a Tenetehara man
may slaughter a pig and sell parts of it for money, but this money is
used to obtain another equivalent good, which can be any commodity,
such as a gun. This is how the Tenetehara conceive of such economic
activities. However, in terms of overall analysis of the latent struc-
tures of this behavior, one may say that part of the money obtained can
be used for investment into the production (not consumption ) of another
commodity. Particularly when this commodity has no use-value in the
internal economy, such as copafba oil, lumber and handicrafts, indeed one
can speak of production for exchange-value. As a matter of fact, such
production does exist among the Tenetehara. Hence there exists the
potential for capital accumulation and the rise of social stratification.
This will be discussed in the last section of Chapter IX, when the Tene-
tehara economy will be compared with the peasant economy of Maranhao.
In order to understand the changes that have taken place in the
Tenetehara economy we need to present a model of the aboriginal Tenete-
hara economy. This model will be described in terms of the factors of
a putative mode of production. The historical changes in this model
will be analyzed in terms of changes in this mode of production, particu-
larly in the factors of production units, technology, and production
surplus; distribution, forms of labor (unfree labor, free labor, cash
labor, indentured labor), knowledge of market, money, and price
mechanisms (i.e., supply and demand). The ultimate effect of these
changes is the modification of the Tenetehara social organization and
society in general .
Aboriginal Tenetehara Economy
The only scientific bases from which a model of the Tenetehara
economy in pre-Columbian times can be constructed are those of analogy
and inference. The two tribal socieites v/hose economic systems can
serve as analogical models are the Tupinamba during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries and the Urubu-Kaapor in the present times. These
are not by any means perfectly analogous systems to the Tenetehara.
In Chapter IV the Tupinamba society was briefly reviewed and contrasted
with the Tenetehara. The conclusion drawn from this review was that these
two societies were significantly different from each other, particularly
in the matters of superstructure (ritual cannibalism in the case of the
Tupinamba) and the higher population density of the Tupinamba. It follows
from these differences that the modes of production of the two societies
were different, too. Nevertheless, the following Tupinamba characteristics
•are found among the Tenetehara: communal and extended family production
units; generalized economic reciprocity between production units; and a
similar division of labor. On the other hand, the higher level of pro-
ductivity and of population density in Tupinamba society allowed for
the rise of inter-village economic exchange. In the seventeenth century
Abbeville (1945:188) observed that Tupinamba villages of different
districts traded with one another, using pepper apparently as a medium of
exchange. It is unlikely that any such currency existed among the Tene-
tehara, not only for reasons of structural necessity but also because
there are no records of such activity.
The Tenetehara economic model is complemented by analogy with the
Urubu-Kaapor. Here we find the same natural resources, technical norms,
level of productivity, and a similar ethnic system that involves little
competition but also little cooperation between villages. Moreover,
as regards the social division of labor and the economic alienation of
labor, they are nonexistent among the Urubu-Kaapor, as they must have been
among the aboriginal Tenetehara. These two components of a mode of
production depend upon the rise of exchange beyond the village unit,
the presence of certain strategic goods in certain areas but not in
others and high population density.
Among the Urubu-Kaapor and probably the aboriginal Tenetehara,
villages were relatively small, probably not exceeding 150 people. The
Tenetehara lived in a rather uniform riverine tropical forest ecological
zone, utilizing the natural resources through slash-and-burn agriculture,
communal fishing, communal and individual hunting with the bow and arrow
and collecting. As with the Tupinamba the cutting tool was the stone
ax. The process of clearing forest for gardens with stone axes is
rather time-consuming, as Salisbury (1962) has demonstrated for the Siane
of New Guinea. Among the Tupinamba the forest was cleared communally
in a single plot, but the planting and harvesting were carried out by
extended family units (cf. Fernandes 1963:139). Modern Tenetehara
informants recalling their grandparents' tales of times past concur
with this statement as being applicable to them as well. In this type
of organization of agricultural production, ideally each extended family
had access to a garden plot, the returns of which would be sufficient for
its survival. Hence one can speak of an economic equality among produc-
tion units. Distribution of goods, therefore, was in the form of
generalized reciprocity essentially for purposes of social cohesion.
Relations between Tenetehara villages, small as they were, must
have been essentially of a social nature; they were linked to one another
by the mechanism of the kinship system. With one possible exception,
that of the stone ax, Tenetehara villages were economically self-suffi-
cient. Each village produced everything that was used as food, but also
everything that was used as artifacts, such as basketry, bows and
arrows, and feather ornaments. The acquisition of stone axes, however,
poses an interesting question. As far as I could gather while in the
field, stones can only be found in the Serra do Tiracambu, which is
located between the upper Pindare and the Gurupi Rivers. The Tenetehara
of the upper Pindare River not to mention the possible villages on the
middle Pindare, had to make periodic trips to procure this basic commodity.
If this is the case, it is not too far-fetched to assume that the villages
nearest to stone quarries had an advantage over those farther away from
them. This advantage could be translated into social terms by assuming
that the favorable villages were larger and politically dominant over
the others. In economic terms one can only assume the presence of an
exchange mechanism either in the form of a trade network on the individual
(that is, the extended family unit) level or in the form of communal
trade, or both. In the first instance this trade had dimensions of
kinship exchange, in the latter, of inter-village alliances. It is
possible that inter-village alliances, formed by the trade of stone
axes for the pledge of military support, were the predominant mechanism,
of the distribution of these tools. This postulate rests on the fact
that further up the Pindare River lived the Amanajos Indians, also a
Tupi group of close linguistic affiliation with the Tenetehara, who must
also have used the Serra do Tiracambu for their source of stone axes.
The Amanajos are described in the colonial literature as a strong people '
who were much sought after by slaving expeditions; they were also the
traditional enemies of the Tenetehara. An objective, economic element
of this enmity might well have been the competition for stone. The
Tenetehara villages nearest to the Amanajos and the stone quarries needed
the military help from other Tenetehara villages, and this help was
obtained through the trade of stone axes. In short, economic advantage
was balanced out by political disadvantage. Thus one may conclude that
under these circuWances there were no strategic predominances of one
Tenetehara village over another, no formation of political areas with
connotations of dominance, no possibility for the rise of incipient
chiefdoms and, economically speaking, no basis for the rise of commodity
exchange. InterviTlage exchange was then merely an extension of the
exchange between production units in the form of generalized reciprocity.
General Changes in the Aboriginal Tenetehara Economic System
It has already been seen that during the phases of slavery and
serfdom, the Tenetehara internal economy and the trade economies (i.e.,
the economic relations of serfdom and slavery) were already two separate
systems virtually unconnected to one another. This separation is most
clear in the relations of slavery, for here Tenetehara labor is separated
entirely from Tenetehara society economically and spatial ly . Apart from
this slave labor the Tenetehara economy continued to exist as an exclusive
internal economy. .
To a lesser extent the distinction between the internal and the
trade economy occurred also during the serfdom phase, although not in
spatial terms. Here Tenetehara labor power was expropriated from the
internal economy to produce exclusively for the controllers of the
trade economy per se , in this case, the Jesuit mission. Whatever economic
compensation was given for their labor by the Jesuits, it obviously was
not equivalent to the value of the products which this labor produced
and which were sold in the market in Sao Lufs. Although there are no
available data on the market prices of cattle and sugar sold by the
missions in Sao Lufs to bake up this assertion, the fact that the Tene-
tehara villages under the control of the mission did not in any sense
rise economically as independent producers is sufficient evidence for the
validity of this assertion. It is likely that the Jesuits reasoned that
their provision of the teachings of Christian doctrine and the knowledge
of the "arts of civilization," compensated for this labor which the
Tenetehara provided for the mission economy. But since this purported
"compensation" resulted in social disintegration in the form of individual
assimilation into the regional Brazilian society, it is even more valid
to speak of the mission system as an economic as well as cultural expro-
This formulation brings into focus an important economic facet of
the continuing development of the Tenetehara as an ethnic group in contact
with the Brazilian society. That is, for the survival of the Tenetehara
society there must be a close interrelationship between their internal
economy and the trade economy through which they relate with the Brazilian
society. Moreover, this interrelationship must be one in which the internal
economy predominates over the trade economy, making the latter a function
of the former. This function should be expressed in the economic
category of surplus labor power, in other words, the production of goods
for the trade economy should come from the surplus of the internal
economy. The history of the Tenetehara indicates that for this inter-
relationship to occur the basic economic category of labor must be free
from direct control by the Brazilian society. Socially this freedom is
expressed in the lack of outside regulations imposed on the social organ-
ization of the Tenetehara, and economically in the predominance of their
internal economy. Neither of these components existed during serfdom
times, as seen in Chapter IV.
In Chapter IV the conclusion was reached that the consequences of
the serfdom phase on the Tenetehara society as a whole were minimal.
This is due to the fact that apart from the disintegrating influence of
the Jesuit mission of Maracu on the Tenetehara living there, most of
the Tenetehara continued to exist almost as in aboriginal times. It
. was this majority of the Tenetehara that, without contact with the Tene-
tehara of Viana (Maracu), expanded and continued to be identified as the
Tenetehara society. One may ask, therefore, what were the "minimal"
permanent consequences of the serfdom phase on the Tenetehara society?
To attempt an answer one has to analyze some of the factors of the mode
of production prevalent in the mission system.
We have already seen that the trade economy under serfdom and the
respective internal economy were not integrated with one another, other
than through labor. But the products of this labor were, in the trade
economy, expropriated from it, and in the internal economy, were consumed
internally. Moreover, it should be recalled from Chapter IV that part
of the labor expanded in the internal economy was also expropriated by
the mission: The Tenetehara were expected to provide the Jesuits with
free fish and game, and possibly agricultural foods as well. We might
try to speculate on the changes that occurred in the Tenetehara internal
economy due to the mission system.
It is not too far-fetched to assume that the internal economy
changed its technical norms in an appreciable way through the introduction
of iron implements by the Jesuits. These implements were axes, machetes,
and hoes, and they brought about the potential for a higher productivity
of the basic production unit, the extended family. But the way the
Jesuits distributed these implements, as economic compensation for
particular favors such as the provision of fish and game, and as positive
reinforcement to individuals who were following the religious policy of
the Jesuits, probably caused the rise of the nuclear family as an impor-
tant production unit of the internal economy.
The rise of the nuclear family production unit by the introduction
of more efficient agricultural tools and the regligious influence (or
coercion) of the Jesuits brought about the decline of the most important
function of the communal production unit: the clearing of land, and
the most important social function of the extended family unit: the
elaboration of social ceremonies. Henceforth, these functions are
performed by the nuclear family although with the help of close rela-
tives. Since the form of distribution of these units was generalized
reciprocity, one might ask if the rise of the nuclear family production
did or did not bring about the appearance of balanced reciprocal relations.
The answer to that should be negative, and it is based on the structural
relation involved in the presence of balanced reciprocity: for balanced
reciprocity to arise it is necessary that the exchange of goods take the
form of exchange-value and that this exchange be mediated by a standard
of value, by money. During the serfdom phase money, even in the Brazilian
economy, was restricted to the operations of the export market in Sao
Luis. Even in areas of high intensity of production for export, such as
on the Itapecuru River valley, the medium of exchange was rolls of spun
cotton, a commodity which did not exist in the mission economy. It is
very likely that in the trade economy of the mission system the use of
pricing goods was nonexistent. Thus it seems unlikely that the Tenetehara
internal economy would develop a price mechanism without outside influence.
Indeed, as will be analyzed in Chapters VIII and IX, the basis of balanced
reciprocity of the Tenetehara internal economy remains dependent on the
outside market system of prices, with no internal developments of deter-
mination of value of labor and labor products.
These were essentially the main changes in the internal economy
of the Tenetehara as brought forth by the phases of serfdom. With the
abolition of serfdom and thus the rise of patron-client relations these
changes are consolidated and form the basic mode of production of the
Tenetehara as we find it through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The appearance of the nuclear family production unit does not eliminate
the extended family and the communal production units. Rather the first
two units are present in the same village but alternate in predominance
according to the types of trade economies and the intensity of the demands
exerted by them. The intensity of demands of the trade economies cause
a higher productivity of the internal economy and consequently the pre-
dominance of the production unit which best brings about this productivity.
In most cases the extended family unit is more productive but at least
in the case of extraction of babaQu nuts the nuclear family proves
superior. The productivity of the internal economy is increased not
only because of the introduction of new technical norms (iron implements
and knowledge of market mechanisms) but also because of new forms of
resources as in the extraction of copafba oil, resins, wild skins, and
lumber. All these introductions come from the trade economies so it is
imperative that a full description of these economies in conjunction with
the kind of relations involved in them be presented. This will be the
subject of the next chapter. ,
TRADE ECONOMY THROUGH PATRON-CLIENT RELATIONS
The distinction between a trade economy based on the production of
agricultural goods and one based on the extraction of forest products
has already been made in terms of the location of Tenetehara villages
vis a vis Brazil i an settlements, and the respective consequences which
each type of trade economy has on the internal economy and hence, on
Tenetehara society in general. One other distinction needs to be made
in terms of the degree of exploitation or, in other terms, the degree
of economic alienation of labor, which each type of trade economy effects
upon the Tenetehara internal economy. In this regard, the distinction
is a function of the knowledge of the market mechanisms (supply and
demand, money, value, and price of trade goods) which in turn is a
function of the intensity of contact with the Brazilian society through
history. Thus, the more contact the Tenetehara have with Brazilians,
the more they learn about market mechanisms, and hence the less exploited
they become. When the areas of agricultural trade economy and the
extractive trade economies are compared it becomes clear that the former
involves more direct contact and. hence more knowledge, more options
to chose trade partners, and hence less exploitation. In the extractive
trade economy the reverse is the case.
As the Brazilian population begins to increase near Tenetehara
areas, this distinction becomes less and less conspicuous as competition
between Brazilian traders for extractive goods allows for a choice of .
trade economy, such as that of lumber in the Bacurizinho area in the
1950s, where sale prices of lumber were set in advance by the SPI agent,
all the distinctions so far presented between the two types of trade
economy become inoperative in recent times. One further distinction,
however, remains and becomes rather important as far as the survival of
Tenetehara society is concerned. The agricultural trade economy, by
virtue of the fact that it rises directly from the internal economy as
surplus production, brings forth the internal development of Tenetehara
society as self-sufficient in food production. The extractive trade
economy, however, rises from the labor power extended to areas outside
the production of food and thus makes at least part of the Tenetehara
village dependent upon the Brazilians for the acquisition of food.
In this case, a substantial portion of one's income obtained from the
production of extractive goods is used to buy food. As will be seen,
this situation is not detrimental to the Tenetehara society as long as
the particular goods of the trade economy hold up in the market. But
when the market no longer demands these goods the Tenetehara find them-
selves with little means to subsist. They thus return to the production
of agricultural goods; or, if possible, they become involved in the
collection of new extractive products in demand by the market.
Seen in this light the characteristic lack of internal development
of the extractive trade economy can be extended to every other non-
agricultural production through which the Tenetehara obtain an income
from outside. Here one can include not only the lumber industry and
the handicraft industry, but also labor hired for cash, thus indentured
labor, and the salary of the monitores. This point will be elaborated
We will now turn to the analysis of the trade economies as they
have developed since the latter half of the nineteenth century. The
general data for this analysis have been presented in the preceding
chapters, so here we are concerned exclusively with the precise economic
data found in the literature. These data come from Brusque (1862),
Dodt (1939); Wagley's (1942) and Galvao's (1945) unpublished notes,
the personal files of an SPI agent of Grajau in the 1950s, and my field
Trade Economy in the Gurupi River Region
In the 1860s, in the Gurupi region which includes the Gurupi River
basin and the Capim and Guama Rivers in the State of Para, the Tenete-
hara were involved in the production of copaiba oil for trade. This
is a fine oil obtained from the copafba tree^ by making a deep incision
in its trunk, an incision which often results in the destruction of the
tree (Dodt 1939:161). Copafba oil had begun to acquire trade value
around the middle of the cenutry and by 1872 fifteen tons per year were
being exported from the port in Sao Lufs. The copafba oil collected
by the Tenetehara of the Gurupi region was at first taken down the
Gurupi River to Vizeu, a small Brazilian settlement, whence part of it
went to Sao Lufs and the rest to Belem. 'it is likely that the Tenete-
hara of the upper Pindare and the middle Grajau Rivers were also involved
in this trade.
The production of copafba oil was undertaken by Tenetehara men
^The identification of this tree as well as other items presented
can be found in the GLOSSARY.
within the extended family production unit. Copaiba trees are not found
in groves but rather individually dispersed in the forest above the
annual flood level. They are tapped during the dry season months (June
to December) at precisely the same time when gardens need to be cleared.
Thus the need for the coordination of these contemporaneous activities
by the headman of an extended family is apparent. It is likely that
each such production unit claimed the right of usufruct of the trees
which it discovered. Inasmuch as copaiba trees are few and far between
in a certain area and as a great number of these trees could not be
re-tapped the next season, there was a constant need for the dislocation
of extended families to new areas of untapped trees. Tenetehara villages
therefore, were either small with a more or less permanent location or
temporarily large with the potential for fission into smaller settlements
The seasonal production of copaiba oil, as well as of jutaicica and
Mubreu resins to a lesser extent, gathered by an extended family was
traded for iron implements, muzzle-loading guns, powder and shot, and
cotton fabrics to make clothes. These commodities became progressively
necessary items of Tenetehara culture, having both economic and social
dimensions. The trade of copaiba oil was carried out through the headman
of the extended family with the Brazilian trader who provided these
manufactured commodities. It is unlikely that any Tenetehara man ever
became a trader himself or a culture broker, not only because the
Tenetehara did not have full knowledge of the market mechanisms at the '
time, but also because the Brazilians had monopoly access to the manu-
factured commodities coming from the town of Vizeu and other settlements.
This lack of full knowledge and this monopoly explain why the value of
the Tenetehara production of copaiba oil was so low in comparison
to the value of the trade commodities of the Brazilians. Table 3 shows
this discrepancy in values:
Table 3. Trade Value of Tenetehara Production in 1862
Price in Bel em
R pp p 1 \/prl
DC 1 em
1 barrel jl6 kg)
of copaiba oil
piece of cotton
for a pair of pants
barrel of gun
Total s :
Source: Brusque (1862:202)
*20$000 = twenty thousand reis , the Brazilian currency until 1942.
This means that the Tenetehara were receiving about 9.5 percent of the
value of their copaiba oil in terms of prices in Belem. Even considering
the expenses and risks taken by the trader to make these deals (allowing
him for example, a 200 percent price increase over what he paid for
commodities in Bel^m, and a decrease of 50 percent below the Bel^m price
of copafba oil) the Tenetehara were still receiving no more than 40 per-
cent of the market value of their trade goods.
Gustavo Dodt (1939) who visited the Gurupi River in 1872 confirms
Brusque's information of the degree of exploitation to which the Tenete-
hara were subjected by Brazilian traders. These traders ( regatoes ) travelled
by canoe up and down the Gurupi and other rivers dealing with the headmen
of extended families. Some of the traders lived temporarily in Tenetehara
villages in which case they acquired more control over the production of
trade goods. At the same time, however, the Tenetehara were beginning ■
to react to their economic control as the competition between traders
increased with the increasing demand for copafba oil. Since the Tene-
tehara lacked the internal mechanism for the concept of exchange-value
of their goods and since they were dependent upon these traders for
the determination of this value and price, they could not demand better
prices or trade values for their goods. But at least the Tenetehara
began to demand of the traders the extension of credit prior to the
time when copai'ba oil was produced and given to the trader. This was
true by 1872, for Dodt (1939:205-211) states that no Tenetehara producer
would engage in the trade of copaiba with a Brazilian trader without
first receiving a certain amount of trade commodities. This meant that
a trader needed to have a larger amount of fluid capital to invest,
and thus it is likely that capital became concentrated among fewer
traders. It is impossible to determine what actually happened in terms
of the value of the Tenetehara trade products between 1862 and 1872 for
Dodt does not give exact data on these transactions. On the face of
it, it seems that the reputedly smaller number of traders offset the
Tenetehara gain in the demand for credit, and thus the value of the
Tatter's products remained about the same as in 1852. Furthermore,
there are other variables, such as coercion by Brazilians and the
increasing knowledge of Brazilian ways and of bargaining, which could
sway the trend of Tenetehara trade values one way or another. What
remains certain is that the extractive trade economy of the Tenetehara
on the Gurupi River became more and more detrimental to them. As a
result, the Tenetehara (Tembg) decreased in numbers during the late
nineteenth century and the first decades of this century.
Copaiba oil as well as resins and the skins of wild animals continued
to have trade value for the Tenetehara along the Pindare and Grajau Rivers
throughout the early years of the twentieth century. But as time passed,
the Indians became more knowledgeable of the mechanism of trade and as
the numbers of Brazilians increased along these river systems, trade in
agricultural products also became important. Our best data for the
first half of the twentieth century comes from the region of the Pindarg
Trade Economies of the Pindare Region
By 193& the Tenetehara of the Pindare region lived in some 12
villages, seven along the Pindare River itself and fiveon the lower
Zutiua River. There was a population of at least 750 people, perhaps
more. The SPI Indian Post, located on the lower Pindare, was in charge
of regulating the economic transactions between Tenetehara and Brazil-
ians. Indeed, the Post was supposed to act as intermediary of all such
transactions, but in fact much trading went on between Tenetehara and
canoe traders and local compradores without the Post's involvement.
In contrast to the situation in the nineteenth century it seems that
changes in the economy of Maranhao and the presence of the Indian Post
had minimized the dichotomy of extractive economy versus agricultural
economy on the Pindare River. Babacu nuts, a new extractive product,
had become an important economic item in Maranhao. It is principally
found in areas of transitional forest, and particularly in areas of
secondary forest growth. As far as the Tenetehara were concerned,
babafu was found only on the lower Pindare-lower Zutiua area and they,
like the neighboring Brazilians, were increasingly exploiting it. Copaiba
oil, found only on the upper Pindare River was as late as the 1920s sold
principally on the Gurupi River apparently because canoe transportation
on the Pindare River had not become a common event as yet, according
to one of Wagley's (1942) informants. The Indian Post's influence on
the Tenetehara economy was seemingly due to the fact that it provided
the Tenetehara with canoes as part of its economic incentive policy.
Thus those upriver villages were able to bring down agricultural products
as well as copaiba oil and skins for sale at the Post. Canoe traders,
from what we can only presume to be profit motivation, frequently made
trips upriver at least through the 1940s.
Table 4 shows the sale of products from eight villages of the Pindare
and lower Zutiua Rivers for the year 1936. This was recorded by the
Indian Post agent and represents only the amount of sale effected through
him, thus leaving out extra official deals. Wagley and Galvao (1949:61-62)
registered such transactions for the years 1941-42 and there is reason
to believe that this was a common occurrence.
Table 4. Tenetehara Sales in 1936
Vi 1 lage Price
Kri viri (at the Indian Post)
374 kg babasu $800
32 Kg deer skin 10$000
60 wild pig skin 6$000
14 capivara skin 10$000
69 alqueires (30 kg each) .
of manioc flour
100 large squash $200
3 guarima baskets 4$000
Table 4. Tenetehara Sales in 1936 (Continued)
V 1 1 1 d y c
Ilhinha (lower Pindare)
144 kg babagu
17 kg deer skin
13 wild pig skin
45 alqueires manioc
28 "hands" maize
Pedrinho (upper Pindar^)
48 kg jutaicica resin
n kg deer skin
8 wild pig skin
6 alqueires tapioca
4 arrobas (15 kg each)
11 guarima baskets
T f & r\r\r\
Gabriel (upper Pindare)
30 kg jutaicica resin
11 kg deer skin
10 wild pig skin
8 peccary skin
6 alqueires manioc
Marcel ino (upper Pindare)
35 kg deer skin
11 wild pig skin
9 peccary skin
7 alqueires manioc
8 alqueires tapioca
6 arrobas tobacco
rdiineira flower /.utiuaj
18 kg deer skin
29 wild pig skin
10 peccary skin
1 ocelot skin
1 jaguar skin
8 alqueires manioc
1 arroba tobacco
1 \J ^ \J \J \J
LimS'o (lower Zutiua)
12 kg deer skin
18 wild pig skin
2 ocelot skin
Table 4. Tenetehara Sales in 1936 (Concluded)
Village Price Total Sale
Limao (lower Zutiua) (Continued)
10 alqueires manioc 8$000 80$000
2 arrobas tobacco 38$000 76$000
Ciqana (lower Zutiua) 442$000
12 kg deer skin 10$000 120$000
11 wild pig skin 7$000 • 77$000
4 peccary skin ■ 9$000 36$000
19 baskets 3$600 63$000
Source: 1936 Report of the Indian Post agent (in Wagley 1942)
Although we cannot estimate the total amount of cash income obtained by
the Tenetehara in 1936 because of extra-official deals, we should try
to determine the trade balance of the Tenetehara economy, that is, the
value of their products in relation to what they were getting. Unfor-
tunately this sales report does not show what articles the Tenetehara
bought in return, from whom, and at what price. The total amount of
6:295$000 (six million, two hundred and ninety-five thousand reis, the
currency of Brazil until 1942 when it changed to one cruzeiro for 1,000
reis) does not tell us much in terms of buying power. If we compute
thus sum in terms of US dollars, at the rate of 17$000to US $1.00
(an estimate derived from the 1942 rate of 20$000 to US $1.00), we
would come up with a figure of US $370.00 as a conservative income of
eight Tenetehara villages, or some 550 to 600 people for the year 1936.
The only other information found in that report is that the price of
skins had increased in September, 1936, and subsequently decreased due
to the prohibition of exporting wild game skins, as decreed by the Federal
Government (this law has never stopped sale of skins to this date).
It should be made clear at this point that the Tenetehara sold
extractive forest products and/or agricultural surplus in order to
obtain manufactured goods, not for the cash per se. There is no indi-
cation that the Tenetehara were making investments from their cash
income for further income. Indeed, as far as agricultural products
were concerned, Tenetehara producers were carefuT to reserve a portion
of their harvest for the next year's planting. When unforseeable events
occurred, such as the breaking apart of a village, newcomers would rely
on relatives of their new residence area for support while they planted .
their own gardens. At times the Indian Post would help, either by gift
or credit, with planting seeds, particularly rice. It should also be
added that only in a few of the economic transactions recorded by Wagley
(1942) and Galvao (1945) do we find mention of prices and purchase of
such agricultural implements as axes, machetes, and sickles. This may
be because the SPI Post probably distributed gratis such implements
on various occasions, a policy we find in effect until about 1963. From '
this we may conclude that the Tenetehara were not ready to transfer their
income from sales to a pattern of investment in their economy. This
is hardly an unexpected fact for even the neighboring Brazilian peasants
lived the same way. When the Tenetehara did now and again receive an
extra large amount of money for their products it was spent in "conspi-
cuous consumption." ., . ^
Two points should be made from the data in Table 4. First, that
the villages with the largest income were Kriviri and Ilhinha, precisely
those on the lower PindarS near the Brazilian settlements of Santa Ines
and Colonial Pimentel and the town of Pindare-Mirim. Baba^u nuts and
manioc flour were the most important items for these villages with wild
pig and deer skins following behind. The upriver villages, as well
as those on the Zutiua River, relied heavily on skins and tobacco.
There is no information on copaiba oil sales which may indicate either
a decrease in trade at that time or more probably the presence of special,
ized copaiba traders and buyers.
Second, we can retrieve a list of trade items and their prices
from this table which we can use for comparative purposes with similar
items for the years 1941-42 and 1945 (Table 5). This will tell us what
items changed prices and which remained more or less the same. Obviously
inflation played some part in the change of prices, but we cannot tell
to what extent.
'^^^'^^ 5. Prices of Tenetehara Products , 1936-1945
kg deer skin
wild pig skin
alqueire manioc ■
kg jutaicica resin
barrel of copaiba oil
1936 Prices 1941-42 Prices
Source: Wagley (1942) and Galvao (1945)
The changes in prices between the years 1936 and 1941-42 tell us very
little that cannot be accounted for by inflation or seasonal fluctuations
of the market. We know that the 1$200 price per kg of babafu occurred
in 1942 and levelled back to $800-l$000 the fol lowing year. The double
and almost triple price jump for tobacco remains unaccountable. Ihe
appearance of rice as a trade item is very significant since it came
to provide a new source of income, in fact an exclusive source of income
since rice was rarely consumed by the Tenetehara themselves. Further-
more, it did not require much extra labor since it can be planted in
between rows of manioc shoots.
The 1945 prices are more indicative of changes in the trade economy.
They show that agricultural products, particularly manioc and tapioca,
continued to rise in the market. The 500 percent rise in these prices,
however, was due to a great shortage of these products during 1945,
apparently throughout the state of Maranhao (Wagley and Galvao 1949:33).
,In the lower Pindard area this shortage was exacerbated partly by the
fact that the rise of babagu prices during the war years made many
people, including the Tenetehara, neglect their manioc gardens for the
extraction of this product. According to Wagley and Galvao (1949:33, 45)
food was even imported from Sao Lufs, and there was even some starvation.
This shortage of foods was also caused by the rise in the cost of living '
which disrupted the local system of credit (Wagley and Galvao 1949:33).
For the Tenetehara this rise in the prices of agricultural products
meant an increase in their revenues and consequently a stimulation for
increased production. Indeed, this seems to have been the case in many
Tenetehara villages. Since an increase in production could not be
procured by (an investment in) a more efficient technology of production
(fertilizers, mechanization, etc.), nor by the introduction of better
seeds, both of which were not available to them, the Tenetehara attempted
to increase production by organizing their labor power. Instead of
nuclear families planting their own gardens with the help of kinsmen,
several nuclear family groups would jointly clear land and plant. These
joint enterprises were organized by the headmen' of an extended family,
and he would also serve as liaison with the Indian Post and local
traders for the joint crop. This was a pattern particularly found in
villages located at a distance from Brazilian settlements for in such
villages it would be more efficient for the transportation of trade
products to take place in bulk. In villages near towns and settlements,
nuclear family production seemed to have continued to be more common.
The most successful village that organized its trade economy
along the lines of extended family production was known as Camirang,
named after its most important headman. This village was located on
the upper Pindare River and apparently had been formed by the coming
together of several nuclear families of former villages, including that
of Gabriel of 1936. Wagley and Galvao (1949:xii) were particularly
impressed with Camirang 's ability to organize production by extending
kinship ties to many distant kinsmen, thus bringing them into his sphere
of influence. According to SPI books, Camirang sold cr$2, 350.00 (US $117.50)
worth of copaiba oi 1 , manioc flour, skins, and tobacco in 1942; in 1943
it had decreased to cr$l,076.00 (US $51.00); in 1944 it had shot up
to cr$7,188.00 (US $360.00) of which cr$7,000.00 (or US $350.00) had
been acquired by the sale of copaiba oil alone (Wagley and GalvSo 1961:
Such amounts of money as well as the analysis so far carried out
can only become significant by complementing it with an analysis of
buying power. A list of items which were purchased by the Tenetehara
and their prices for the years 1941-42 and 1945. are shown in Table 6.
It should be stated that Wagley and Galvao (1949:33), when describing
the rise in the cost of living, mentioned that such indispensable
manufactured goods as axes, machetes, and cloth had doubled or tripled
their prices by 1945, thus offsetting the increase in revenues.
Table 6. Prices of Brazilian goods sold to the Tenetehara, 1941-42, 1945
I straight sickle ( cutelo )
1 small knife
I muzzle gun
1 box gun flint
"spoonful" gun powder
3 gr. gun powder
kg gun powder
"spoonful" gun shot
kg gun shot
m calico ( riscado )
m calico ( chita )
m denim ( mescla )
piece sail cloth (5 m 7)
package thread (15 bobs)
roll cheap thread
kg crude soap
Source: Wagley (1942) and Galvao (1945)
This table shows that indeed prices had almost doubled during this
three-year period, particularly those for muzzle gun, fabrics, crude soap,
and salt. It is unfortunate that we cannot say the same for other items
for lack of data, or in the case of gun powder and shot because the
available measures are not comparable. It is not possible to tell
what a "spoonful" of shot or gun powder means in terms of weight.
Obviously the 13 grams of gun powder were sold in retail and for a
very high price; the total amount of 1,000 grams, equivalent to 1 kg,
would have come to 300$000--at least four times the price in 1945.
Once again our purpose of calculating the overall trade balance
(i.e., the relationship between the total market value of what the
Tenetehara sold and the total market value of what they obtained in
return) of the Tenetehara trade economy cannot be concluded with preci-
sion. But in comparison to the situtation in 1862 (see Table 1), this
balance was much more favorable to the Tenetehara. Whereas in 1863, it
took the sale of one barrel of copaiba oil to obtain material for one
pair of cotton pants, in 1945 the proportion had reversed to one barrel
of copafba oil to seven pairs of cotton (denim) pants (at 2 1/2 m of
material per pair of pants; See Tables 5 and 6). Although there rarely
existed a cash surplus from this trade, the cash derived from the
sale of copafba oil, babagu nuts, rice, manioc flour, tapioca, tobacco,
. and skins seems to have been more than sufficient to buy such commodities
as guns, gun powder and shot, fabrics, crude soap, kerosene, salt and
the like. We are bearing in mind, of course, that the Indian Post
was distributing gratis machetes and axes, as Wagley and Galvao (1961:
49) witnessed on one occasion.
The reason why a trade surplus balance, either in cash or in extra
commodities was so rare and in the cases of some Tenetehara families
even non-existent, is found in the trade mechanisms, i.e., the relations
between seller and buyer. In my analysis of the trade economies of the
nineteenth century trade, whether carried out through canoe traders or
local compradores, was essentially based on patron-client relationships.
This pattern continued until very recently., despite the efforts of
SPI/FUNAI Indian' agents. It was the dominant pattern during the period
The patron-client relationship apparently was not limited to the
towns and settlements where the Tenetehara might go to trade, but existed
also in a network of intermediaries located in strategic places near
or even in Tenetehara villages. Such intermediaries were representatives
of local compradores with whom of course they were engaged in patron-
client relationships. The intermediaries could be canoe traders, gen-
erally for the villages along the Pindare River or mule traders ( viageiros )
for the most distant villages along the Zutiua River which were serviced
by a cattle trail that went from the town of Mongao on the lower Pindare
River way up to Amarante and to Carolina on the Tocantins River. In
the villages near Brazilian settlements, intermediaries were themselves
local farming peasants who probably also served the same function for
other Brazilian peasants. In addition, there were intermediaries who
lived in Tenetehara villages. These were either Tenetehara Indians
who were headmen of extended families or Brazilians who had married
Tenetehara women. In one case a Tenetehara extended family headman
was given charge of bringing other- Tenetehara villagers into the orbit
of his patron, thus competing with other, intermediaries. Figures 5
and 6 show graphically the network of patron-client relationships and
how it operated in terms of settlements and villages in the 1930s and
This Tenetehara intermediary was given credit in the form of
fabrics, gun powder and shot, gun flint, and machetes in exchange
for mainly rice but also manioc flour which he was expected to obtain
from the villages on the middle Zutiua River. However, because of a
rumor that forest Timbira Indians were attacking those villages, this
man never made the necessary trips to trade, and consequently remained
in debt to his patron (actually patroness). Apparently his debt was
not extremely large for he was planning to pay up by selling his own
Figure 5. Network of Traders in the Pindare Region
Source: Taken from Wagley (1942) and Galvao (1945)
Figure 6. Network of Settlements and Village Areas
Middle Zutiua Villages
Source: Taken from Wagley (1942) and Galvao (1945)
The extent to which the possible positive surplus trade balance
of the Tenetehara trade economy was offset by the patron-client
relationships and the debt-credit mechanisms involved in these relation-
ships is illustrated by Table 7. This table contains the transactions
of four Tenetehara headmen of nuclear families who were living in
Lagoa Comprida (about a five hour walk from Colonia Pimentel on the lower
Zutiua River, and near the small settlements of Naja and Morada Nova).
Part A of Table 7 concerns transactions with intermediaries who had
their own patrons in Santa Ines and Colonia Pimentel, and part B, unfor-
tunately rather short, has to do with direct transactions with local
compradores of those settlements. It should be noted that the trans-
actions of Joao in part A are not shown in detail as I did for the
others. The reason for this was simply to save space as Joao had
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transactions with some ten intermediaries at different periods of
time in 1941-42.
The total computations in Table 7 come from the actual prices
obtained for what was sold (last column), and from the possible value
of what was sold, had the Tenetehara sellers been able to charge the
market price for their products. These market prices were estimated from
Table 5, as follows:
1 alqueire (30 kg) rice 6$000
1 kg babagu 1$000
1 alqueire (30 kg) manioc 6$000
1 kg tobacco 6$000
These were the main products sold and in the great majority of cases
the prices paid by the patrons were considerably lower. The prices of
other products were computed as charged in the transactions. For example,
two pigs were sold by two different Tenetehara, one for 30$000, the
other for 50$000. The price of "fixing the butt of a muzzle gun" was
computed as 7$000 or about twice the daily wage in 1941-42 (cf. Wagley
and Galvao 1961:47), while the prices of "making a pair of pants" and
an "old muzzle gun" were computed in terms of what was exchanged for
them. Thus the final computations of prices are, in my view, fairly
We can immediately see from the total computations of the prices
of what were given and the prices of what were received that the
Tenetehara were not getting full value for their products. In fact,
for part A the Tenetehara were receiving only 65 percent of the value
of their products according to current market prices, whereas in part
B the percentage was 75. Altho-ugh the data for part B are considerably
smaller than for part A, nevertheless I believe that they indicate a
pattern. The logic of economics would indicate that the presence of
intermediaries, who themselves are looking for profit and are taking
risks, does lower the exchange ratio of the Tenetehara trade economy.
One more point should be made. The Tenetehara were aware that they
could obtain better prices for their products if they went directly to
Colonia Pimentel, Santa Ines, or Pindare-Mi rim. Their failure to do
so frequently may be due to convenience (lack of transportation and
feelings of inadequacy when facing town dwellers) and probably also to
the fact that there were certain social benefits in linking oneself to a
Brazilian intermediary living nearby. The existence of fifteen odd
intermediaries with whom the Tenetehara traded shows that the Tenetehara
had a certain amount of choice in trading partners. In fact, one Tene-
tehara, not shown in the above table, voiced his opinion that if "so
and so" paid only 5$000 per alqueire of manioc flour he would go down
to Colonia Pimentel where he could certainly get a better price. Another,
upset by an unfulfilled promise from a mule trader, had vouched that he
no longer would make deals with such people (Wagley 1942).
It is not possible to follow up the' trade balance and percentage
value of the Tenetehara trade economy to 1945. The data we have avail-
able for that year are not as detailed as for 1941-42. Moreover, the
data we have available concerns mainly two villages of the upper
Pindare for which we have little data for 1941-42. The upper Pindare
villages traded in bulk. Once or twice a year a cargo was organized
by the headman of an extended family or the official leader of several
such units who brought it down in two or three canoes to trade in
Colonia Pimentel. Thus they would obtain generally better prices than
those of the lower Pindare and lower Zutiua River. But occasionally
canoe traders would go up to these villages, and as expected, there
was considerable decrease in the trade balance for the Tenetehara. The
lower prices for manioc flour and tapioca shown earlier in Table 6 come
from data concerning transactions with such traders.
, Our economic data for the Tenetehara of the Pindare region ends
in 1945. I will attempt to explain the present (1975) situation of the
remaining Tenetehara of that region mainly from sociological inferences
of the developments in that region since that time. As already noted
earlier, there remain only about 250 Tenetehara located on the Indian
reservation of the lower Pindare, and perhaps 80 others in three
villages on the upper Pindare (Caru) reservation. For each area there
is an Indian Post whose main functions nowadays seem to consist of
trying to ward off invaders of the reservations and to offer a certain
amount of medical services to the Tenetehara. The former policy of
"protecting" the economic interest of the Indians is practically non-
In 1945 when Eduardo Galvao returned to the region to get further
data on the Tenetehara, the inherent tensions involved in the organiza-
tion of villages into extended family production units found on the
upper Pindare seemed to have begun to take their toll. The village of '
Camirang had split into three groups because two other headmen of
extended families became distrustful of Camirang's apparent mishandling
of the village's trade economy. Galvao reported (personal communication)
that Camirang had begun to assume "airs of a minor despot," including
the acquisition of a large number of wives, "perhaps as many as eight,"
an unprecedented number in Tenetehara society. He tried to dress well,
sporting sail cloth suits, panama hats, and a wrist watch (he is said
to have been unable to read time). He had acquired a portable record
player and a few records of current popular songs, indeed at that time
a very expensive item. (All of this was reaffirmed to me by several
informants of the Pindare Indian Post when I visited the area in 1975).
In short, Camirang was using the "large" trade surplus obtained
from the sale of copafba oil for "conspicuous consumption." The use of
this term of course does not imply that Camirang had become a "capitalist,
in the sense used by Veblen. On the contrary, it is used as a convenient
term to dramatize the fact that the Tenetehara trade economy was essen-
tially unable to grow beyond the level of subsistence trade, that is,
trade for the few essential items. The mechanisms of generalized
reciprocity within and between production units of the Tenetehara internal
economy together with the patron-client economic relations of the trade
economy foreclosed any possibility of the use of surplus for capital
investment. Indeed it is contended here that this surplus disrupted
the previous social economic organization of the Tenetehara based on
independent, self-sufficient family units (whether nuclear or extended)
linked to each other by ties of kinship and economic reciprocity and
the demands of that culture's rituals. The process of disruption of
those villages followed a full cyclic development: trade economic
opportunities led to the formation of large economic units of production
organized through pooling of the labor products of extended family
units and capitalized by a leader, the headman of one of these units.
The functional limit of such organization was reached with a high trade
surplus and its partial alienation for conspicuous consumption. As
a result of the alienation of other production units, this organization
disintegrated, reverting to the original independent family organization.
This analysis does not, however, explain the fact that thirty
years later there were only 80 people in that area (and at least one
third of those people came from somewhere else). If the explanation
is simply that of a cyclic phenomenon we should expect that the cycle
could be restarted. One reason why this did not happen in the upper
Pindare area may have been because that basis of the trade economy of
the Tenetehara had completely collapsed: in other words, copafba oil
ceased being a trade item either because the resources were exhausted
or because prices fell, or perhaps because local compradores were no
longer buying it. We know, however, that copafba oil continued to be
exploited by the Tenetehara. of the upper Zutiua area and was sold to
compradores fromGrajauas late as 1957. If the copafba oil market
indeed stopped for the Tenetehara of the upper Pindare in the early
1950s,' then instead of postulating a cycl ic explanation for the disrup-
tion of those villages based on high trade surplus, we should perhaps
look at the possibility of a decrease in trade surplus as the reason
for this disruption.
The decrease in the production of copafba oil occurred concomitantly
with a decrease in the production of agricultural goods for trade pur-
poses. Thus the decline in population of the Tenetehara of both the
upper and lower Pindare areas was partly caused by the breakdown of their
trade economies. In both cases the increase of the Brazilian population
in the region really accelerated this process . Brazilian peasants began
to move into this region in progressively larger numbers after the end
of World War II. They began to compete with the Tenetehara not only
for lands but also for credit. As was the case in the 1940s, the
Brazilian peasant was more productive than the Tenetehara Indian, and
as federal credit agencies (particularly SUDENE after 1958) came on the
scene, the peasants were able to acquire needed credit and easier
terms than through patron-clientships.
The pressure against their lands together with the difficulty in
obtaining credit hastened the decline of agricultural production for
trade. Dependent as they were on manufactured commodities the Tenete-
hara began to rely more and more on the production of baba^u nuts. As
a result, the nuclear family production unit became all important in
detriment to extended family and communal (or village) production units. '
In the upper Pindare area the majority of the Tenetehara moved down
to the lower Pindare by the middle of the 1950s. And elsewhere on the
lower Pindare where there were no groves of babagu trees, the Tenetehara
villages began to lose cohesion both socially and economically. Through
economic necessity, nuclear families became attached to Brazilian
peasants and/or comprador-landowners in a more dependent way than ever
before. This process of attachment is known in the region as " apadrinhagem ,
or "becoming godchild to someone." It is a variation of patron-client-
ship in which total economic dependency is involved, including credit
and the loss of ownership of land. Thus, as nuclear families moved off
out of their villages, the social and ritual elements of village cohe-
sion, particularly the matter of descent (marriage), labor exchange,
rites of passage for boys and girls, and the performance of the Honey
Feast, were neglected and forgotten.
This process of deculturation intensified through the 1960s as
cross-cultural marriages became more corrmon, with the added fact that
the new couples would live among Brazilians. Nowadays the 250 Tenete-
hara living in the estimated 40,000 hectares of land on the Pindare
reservation obtain trade commodities generally through the production
of babaqu nuts. As of 1975, babagu nuts were sold at a price of cr$1.50
per kilo, which is equivalent to the retail price of 1 1/2 kg of salt
(or in comparative terms just about what it was in 1942). Usually only
women produce babagu nuts, an average of six to ten kilos per day.
Converted into cash, this amounts to about the standard daily wage of a
rural worker in the area, or cr$15.00. This contrasts unfavorably with
the ratio of a kilo of babagu nuts to the daily wage in 1942 which was
cr$1.00 to cr$2.50 (See Wagley and Galvao 1949:33; 1961:47).
Thus the Tenetehara nuclear families of this area must at least
own small subsistence gardens and occasionally work as wage laborers.
But those families that can still be organized as extended family units
rely on other means of cash income such as the renting of lands to
Brazilian peasants or the renting of rights to exploit the babagu groves
of the reservation. Due to the recent prohibition of this practice by
FUNAI it is likely that the trade economy of the area is going to depend
more and more on babagu nuts. On the other hand, given the increasing
high prices of rice and manioc flour it is possible that a resurgence
of agricultural production may take place--barring the eventuality of
loss of land.
The 80 Tenetehara of the (upper Pindare) Caru Indian Post are
living in three villages which are located within a large reservation
area (perhaps as large as 1,500,000 acres of land) which is also the
home of some 420 Urubu-Kaapor Indians, and perhaps 100-150 Guaja Indians.
There is no economic articulation between these Indian groups, but there
is an undeterminate number of Brazilian peasants, including a settlement
with over 1,000 people located on the fringes of the reservation. It is
very likely that the Tenetehara are engaging in economic transactions
with this settlement, much as they did on the lower Pindare in the 1940s
although I do not have precise data to state this with assurance.
The trade economy of these Tenetehara seems to be based on agri-
cultural products, as is the economy of the Brazilian settlement of the
area. There is no copafba oil exploitation, but lumber has become
important in the last four or five years. This information came to me
only accidentally when I witnessed a complaint from a Tenetehara Indian
at the FUNAI Regional Office in Sao LuTs, to the effect that Brazilians
were exploiting cedro woods in alleged reservation land without the
permission of the Indians or of FUNAI. I could not determine whether
rent was charged of Brazilians who had asked permission, or whether
this complaint had arisen simply from concern for the protection of
their land resources. It is unlikely that the Tenetehara themselves
are involved in the lumber industry for FUNAI knows nothing about that.
In contrast to the important role wich the SPI played in the creation
of a lumber industry operated by the Tenetehara of Bacurizinho in the
1950s, FUNAI offers no economic incentives for Such a potential industry
in this region, such as credit in the form of saws and transportation
facilities. ■ ■
Trade Economies in the Gra.jau Region
In contrast to the Tenetehara of the Pindare region, the Tenetehara
population o^the Grajau region has doubled since the 1940s. The main
reason for this lies in the fact that the Brazilian population of this
region has not increased as dramatically as that in the Pindare. The
economy of Grajau had always been less dynamic than that of Pindare.
Furthermore, until recently it had neither the infrastructure to grow
nor the economic aid of the Brazilian government. Thus inspite of the
fact that the Tenetehara trade economies of Grajau were organized in
similar lines of production and trade relations as in Pindare, they
never collapsed in times of decline of market demands for particular
goods because they could revert to low levels of agricultural production
for trade. And if periodically Tenetehara nuclear families became
attached through apadrinhagem relationships to Brazilian landowners,
they could and always did return to their lands in better times.
The first economic information we have about the Grajau Tenetehara
dates from the 1920s. At that time the Tenetehara of the upper Mearim
River were engaged in producing manioc flour, tapioca, lumber and cotton
for sale in the town of Barra do Corda (Abreu 1931). Part of this produc-
tion was sold to traders who had their residence in Barra do Corda. One
interesting incident witnessed by Abreu (1 931:140)shows that this trade
was carried out through patron-client relations.. A Tenetehara man
visiting Barra do Corda became enchanted with the dummy figure of the
bull used in the bumba-meu-boi festivities traditional of such towns .
as Barra do Corda. He promptly "purchased" it from its owner who was
a local store owner. However, this purchase was made totally on credit '
to be repaid with the products of his gardens. Abreu (1931:142) remarks
that this form of credit-debt relation was quite common and that it
would place the debtor "forever" in the hands of his creditor.
In addition to these agricultural products, beans, fava beans,
squashes, corn, and game meat were also produced for trade and sold in
other towns, such as Grajau and Amarante (the latter only became the
seat of a municipio in the 1950s). According to my informants, the
surplus of agricultural production was the main source of income with
which to acquire manufactured goods. During the period between 1920
and 1950 this production was organized through extended family units.
Agricultural products that were not sold to traders were taken on
burros to the towns. The little lumber that was produced consisted
of logs which were cut down and shipped down to Barra do Corda. Lumber
production was also organized by headmen of extended families. Wild game
skins were sold to traders and compradores, an activity performed on
the level of nuclear family production without the intermediary role
of the headmen. Also outside the supervision of the headmen was the
hiring of one's labor to the owners of canoes. The details of this
operation were presented in Chapter VI. Suffice it to say that the
Tenetehara who hired themselves out for such hazardous work were
generally men between the ages of 18 and 40 years. This age span com-
prises the age group of young married men who are still living matri-
locally and thus under the supervision of headmen, and the age group
of middle age married men who are trying to make it on their own as future
headmen. Thus although the small wage of cr$30.00 (or 30$000 before 1942)
per round trip could only buy a change of clothes for one's nuclear
family, it nonetheless brought new status to the earner. On these
trips he would acquire personal knowledge of Brazilian ways, and thus
the experience for headmanship of a future extended family unit. Most
of the present headmen of the villages of Bacurizinho, Ipu, Taiado,
Olho d' Agua, and Lagoa Comprida, located in the Bacurizinho Indian
Post area, were former canoe paddle-pushers.
The end of cash income from the canoe business, which was abolished
around 1950, was succeeded by new sources of income, most of which were
organized directly by the SPI agent in Grajau. During times of high
productivity of these new resources, agricultural production suffered
a slump both in terms of surplus for trade and for subsistence purposes.
The production of these new resources, however, continued for the most
part to be organized by extended family units.
In the region of the upper Zutiua area, the SPI agent living in
Grajau organized several Tenetehara headmen to extract copafba oil,
jutaicica and jatoba resins, almecega wax, cumaru nuts, and to obtain
wild skins. In the Bacurizinho area where such forest products were
rare or non-existent but where there was an abundance of cedro and other
hardwoods, several Tenetehara men were given charge of four large hand-
saws with which to cut and prepare the logs into lumber, posts, and house
poles. As the lumber industry progressed there, the Grajau agent was
asked by another village on the Grajau River to do the same for them,
but the SPI commissioner in Sao Lufs vetoed the project. In the Guajajara
Indian Post near Barra do Corda, the Tenetehara continued to produce
only agricultural surplus, and whatever wild skins they, could procure.
The SPI agent there was actually involved with an agricultural colony
set up by the Federal Government for the peasants of the region. Further-
more, he also had to contend with the two Canella villages of the region,
so that he had little time to organize the Tenetehara like his colleague
The organization of the extractive trade production of the Tenete-
hara of the upper Zutiua and Bacurizinho took considerable time and
effort on the part of the SPI agent, particularly in dealing with the
bureaucratic difficulties emanating from the commissioner's office in
Sao Lufs. The SPI agent, who himself owned some land and a trade store
in Grajau, worked very hard because he was profiting from the Indian
production. In the matter of the lumber industry he was supposed to be
merely an agent of the SPI, and the Indian production (the only one of
the kind in the area) was to be sold to the SPI or through it. A rather
voluminous correspondence ensued between the Grajau agent and the SPI
commissioner concerning the lumber industry and other extractive goods
acquired by the SPI. .
The lumber industry started in February, 1954, and in June, ten
dozen boards had been prepared and transported from Bacurizinho to the
town of Barra do Corda by the SPI truck. At the end of the year nearly
170 dozen boards had been prepared and were ready to be transported.
Some of it was taken by the Tenetehara themselves down the Mearim River
to Barra do Corda (whence it would be shipped down to Sao Luis) while '
the rest was taken by truck to that town. With the existing difficulties
and delays of transportation the lumber business quickly peaked in 1955
and stopped abruptly in 1957. Exhaustion of cedro woods was probably
one reason but the fact that the Grajau agent had to move out temporarily
from his post also played a part.
In April, 1955, the Grajau agent wrote up a series of receipts of
payment to several Tenetehara lumbermen, and an equivalent series of
receipts of sale to the SPI Regional Office in Sao Luis. Table 8 illus-'
trates the discrepancy of these receipts and the profit which the agent
accrued from it. It is likely that the receipt of sale of 427 boards
at cr$25.00 was an error on the part of the agent. There was an agree-
ment between the agent and the commissioner that the SPI would pay the
former cr$40.00 per board. Thus his profit should have been larger than
it shows, in fact, cr$15.00 per board, or 40 percent over the price
he paid the Tenetehara producers. This percentage of trade value (i.e.
60 percent) of Tenetehara production contrasts somewhat unfavorably with
the same percentage presented in Table 7 (65 percent and 75 percent),
but quite favorably with that presented in Table 3 (9.5 percent) for
the year 1862.
^^^'^^ Receipts of Purchase and Sale of Lumber, April 1955
Purchase from Tenetehara
Sale to SPI Regional Office
cr$25.00 cr$10, 675.00
Total Profit: cr$31 ,050.00
Average Rate of Profit per board: cr$11.00
Source: SPI agent in Grajau, personal files,
The Grajau agent, of course, had his own expenses with this business,
although not in transportation as that was paid by the SPI. Among his
expenses there was the annual food bill which Tenetehara visiting Grajau
accrued upon him. This food bill was calculated by the agent at about
cr$2,555.00 in 1953 and cr$2,836.00 in 1954, but despite his charging
it to the SPI, he seems not to have received any of it. The SPI commis-
sioner, who was a good friend of the agent, seemed to have the quite
correct view that such expenses were part of the agent's patron-client
relationship with the Indians of the region.
It seems that 1955 was the golden year of the Tenetehara lumber
industry for in 1956 the agent recorded only the purchase of 50 house
poles at cr$50.00 a piece. In 1957, the agent himself bought 40 boards
and 26 posts for his own use. Apparently the SPI headquarters in Rio had
given up on this project. But the Tenetehara continued to produce lumber
to sell on demand to the Grajau townspeople. With the lack of transpor-
tation facilities, the Tenetehara lumbermen are reported by the Grajau
agent to have brought lumber on their heads from the village of Bacur-
izinho located at a distance of 30 km from Grajau!
It is impossible to determine the value of the Tenetehara labor
spent on the lumber production because the amount of time spent on it
could not be ascertained. The Tenetehara themselves had no choice but
to accept the price imposed on them by the agent or the local demand
(which seemed to have been the same). Of course, this situation is
repeated not only for other kinds of Tenetehara trade economies else-
where, but also for the Brazilian peasants themselves.
The sum of cr$75, 675. 00 obtained in 1955 was equivalent to the
total price of 150 muzzle loading guns (at about cr$500. 00 a piece).
To compare this sum with the equivalent amount in 1975, with the price
of a muzzle loading gun at cr$130.00, the figure would be cr$19,500.00.
At the July, 1975, exchange rate of cr$8.00 per US $1.00, the equivalent
in dollars would be US $2,187.50. Whether or not this illustrative '
computation is valid, it nevertheless gives an idea of the amount of
money earned by some 15 Tenetehara men in one year's time.
Part of this money never reached the Tenetehara producers as it was
"lost" to the SPI agent as part of the credit system. The rest of it
was used to buy commodities in the patrons' stores. In one case for <
which records have remained, a Tenetehara man is listed as having received
cr$5,000.Q0 for the sale of 200. boards. However, this man told me that
he actually received a four-bass accordion for 144 boards, and the rest
in fabrics, sewing thread, sandals, and shoes as the equivalent for 56
boards. -Now, 144 boards should have brought cr$3,600.00 or the equivalent
of seven muzzle loading guns. In 1975, such an accordion cost from
cr$300.00 to 400.00, or the price of three muzzle loadi ng guns.
Another part of this income was capitalized by an enterprising
Tenetehara man named Virgilio. Although the son of a headman of a large
extended family, he was too young when his father died so that the
leadership of this extended family was taken over by one of his older
brother-in-laws who himself formed a new unit, Virgilio had married
a woman with few kinsmen in his village so that he was quite short of
in-laws with whom to organize an extended family. In addition he was
only 24 years old in 1955 and therefore has no possibilities of creating
an extended network of dependent relatives. Nevertheless, he had
learned to read and write as a child with the help of an English mission-
ary who lived in his village between 1930 and 1940. When the opportunity
for the lumber production arose he was one of the first Tenetehara men
to become involved with the SPI agent. Soon he was organizing other
men to cut lumber for him by extending credit to them. He then set
up a small trade store stocked with manufactured goods which he obtained
on credit from the agent. His fellow Tenetehara bought heavily on
credit at retail prices much higher than in Grajau. The basis for the
functioning of this store was clearly the boom of the lumber industry
for when the boom busted in 1955 due to lack of support from the SPI
(since local demand for lumber was small), so did the store. The debts
that had been piled up both on the part of Virgilio to his creditor
in Grajau and to creditors among the Tenetehara, and on the part of the
Tenetehara to the store, remained unpaid. Shortly afterwards, at the
request of the Grajau agent, Virgilio moved to the upper Zutiua area to
organize the production of extractive forest goods. He returned to
Bacurizinho in 1966 and in 1972, with the rise of the handicraft boom,
he once again became a key figure of this trade economy.
Thus the lumber industry was organized through the nuclear family
.unit. Besides Virgilio there were some ten or fifteen other men who
are listed in the records of the Grajau agent. The extended family unit
continued to produce agricultural surplus through this period and after-
wards until the early 1970s. Many members of the extended families
in fact hardly ever became involved in producing lumber, one of the
reasons being that there were only four handsaws available in the village.
Meanwhile, in the upper Zutiua area the trade economy had become
one of exclusively extractive forest products: copafba oil, jutaicica
and jatoba" resins, almecega wax, cumaru nuts, and wild skins. Because
of difficulties of transportation and the long distance between this
area and Grajau, the agricultural trade economy had practically stopped.
Nevertheless, the production of these extractive goods was done by
extended family units, partly because such production can be done
efficiently by the extended family, and partly because the Tenetehara
of this region had had less contact with Brazilians and few of them could
be counted as reliable by the SPI agent and other Brazilians.
Beginning in 1952 or earlier, the main patron to the Indians of
that area (and here the Ge Krikati and Gaviao are included) was the
Grajau agent. He dealt both directly and indirectly with his clients.
He travelled extensively to Indian villages where he would arrange trans-
actions and exhort the Indians to watch "his" cumaru trees, "his" copafba
trees, "his" ocelot skins, and the like. The agent also had three or
four intermediaries who were SPI functionaries in three strategic
villages. Two of them were part-Tenetehara , and one other was his own
sister who had married a Tenetehara. Notwithstanding this advantage,
the agent had competition from other small itinerant traders who at
times offered better prices for the Indian's products than his inter-
mediaries could afford without losing their commission's profits. For
example, in March, 1954, the agent sent to one of his intermediaries
a list of the prices he was willing to pay for various extractive goods.
With these prices he made many deals throughout 1954, but we have record
only of four. His intermediary, however, wrote him in May and later in
November saying, in the first letter, that traders were offering better
prices for ocelot skins and, in the second letter, that the traders'
prices for most of the products were enticing Indians away from him.
Table 9 shows some of the transactions between the agent and Indians
(direct transactions) or between the agent's intermediaries and the
Indians (indirect transactions), as well as the prices offered to the
Indians by the agent, and his competitors. The intermediary may have
been exaggerating the traders' competition, probably to get a raise
in his commission, for despite his warning that the competitive price
for ocelot skin was cr$560.00 in November, 1954, the agent offered him
no more than cr$500.00 two months later. Another point that helped
dispense with competition in the area is the fact that these traders
were rather small local peasants with few if any trade goods to enter into
patron-client relationships with the Tenetehara. They were treated by ,
the Tenetehara as compadres (co-fathers), a term that implies a relation-
ship of mutual dependency but also equality in that area.
Table 9. Local Price Offers for Indian Products in 1954
Agent's offer price No. of transactions
^^^""^h 1954) (D:direct; I:indirect) Competitor's prices
Deer skin cr$23.00 8 (D) cr$30 00
peccary skin 28.00 20 (,D (327.00) 5 (I:@30.00) 3o'oO
wild pig skin 25.00 11 (D and I) 26*00
ocelot skin 400.00 (500.00 in Jan. 1955) 450.00 (May); (560.00 Nov)
peludo skin 40.00 -- \ j' / ' \ ^uv;
anaconda skin 8.00 1 (3 m long) I-
jaguar skin 80.00 2
teju skin 10.00
barrel copafba 230.00 22 (I); 3 1/2 (D) 300.00 (Nov)
jatob^ resin (kg) 2.50 500 kg (D (32.00) ;2, 300 kg (I) 3.00 Nov
alm^cega (kg) 1.50 -- ■__
Source: SPI agent in GrajaCi, personal file.
The agent's capital, on the other hand, was quite considerable for
not only did he have a trade store, but he was also fortified with SPI
money (for lumber transactions and apparently to some extent for copafba
and resins which the SPI was buying). Moreover, between 1953 and 1956
the SPI made many donations of axes, machetes, and sickles to the Tene-
tehara which the agent most probably used to strengthen his patron
In his 1954 annual report to the SPI commissioner, the Grajad agent
claimed that the Indians extracted about 3,742 (undiscriminated kinds
of) skins, two (metric)tons of copafba oil, five tons of jatoba resin.
and three tons of almecega wax, besides 2,168 units of lumber from the
Bacurizinho area. This considerable amount of extractive production
goods cannot be entirely an exaggeration for in his 1957 annual report
he listed 1,468 deer skins, 2,146 peccary skins, 1,082 wild pig skins,
48 ocelot skins, 200 kg of copaiba oil, 100 kg of cumaru nuts, and five
tons of jutaicica resin. What is important in this comparison is that
copaiba, jatoba, and almecega declined or totally disappeared while
cumaru and jutaicica came into unprecedented prominence. We cannot
account for the disappearance of jatoba and almecega from the last report
for their prices seemed to have remained stable at cr$11.00 and cr$13.00
per kilo, respectively, during 1955, but it may have dropped subsequently.
The price of jutaicica rose from cr$8.00 to cr$11.00 per kilo between
March and November, 1955. Copaiba oil was at one point in 1955 cr$55.00
per kilo, but had declined to cr$40.00 at year's end; this trend may
have continued from then on. The rise of cumaru nuts, however, was most
impressive, going from cr$15.00 to cr$55.00 per kilo in that same period
of time. Thus the 100 kg reported in 1957 was probably understated.
(We have no concrete data for 1956 for in that year's report the agent
merely says that there was a "very large production of skins, cumaru
nuts, copaiba oil, and the resins.").
To give an idea of the profit margin earned by the agent on the
sale of these products bought from the Tenetehara we can compare the
prices of Table 9 with those presented in Table 10. But we should
note that the latter prices were for 1955 and therefore the agent may
have paid better prices for the Tenetehara's products in that year than
those shown in Table 9 for 1954. This is regrettably the best that
can be done in terms of a comparison since the agent apparently left
no accounts of his transactions with the Tenetehara for 1955,
Table 10. Prices obtained by the Grajau agent
Wild pig skin
Anaconda skin (meter)
Prices obtained by the Grajau agent
cr$55. 00-40. 00
1 ,300.00-700.00-800.00-1 ,300.00
If we compare the price differences of the products found in both Table 9
and Table 10 we will arrive at the fact that the Tenetehara were getting
only 40 percent of the prices of their products as obtained by the
Grajau agent. This percentage contrasts unfavorably with the trade
economies of Pindare and Bacurizinho. I need only say a few words about
how the agent disposed of his goods. He had four or five buyers in Belem,
Sao Lufs, Portal eza, and Recife, and it was from the correspondence
between them that these prices are known. In the case of the first
five items above the buyer was from Belem and these prices were paid
upon delivery. Transportation cost quite a lot and in this case the
SPI truck or the air service was of no avail. In one recorded letter
the agent wrote to a buyer in Sao Lufs saying that although he had an
offer from Belem for cr$45.00 per kilo of delivered copafba, he was willing
to settle for cr$30.00 if the buyer would come and get it himself. The
majority of the skins' prices come from a buyer in Fortaleza. Apparently
the value of ocelot skins fluctuated, considerably for the 50 percent
movement back and forth occurred in one month's time (between July and
Finally, the agent seemed to have had another buyer who was probably
from a nearby city (Terezina, Barra do Corda, or the towns on the Toncan-
tins River) for the prices he was offered by this buyer were considerably
lower (right column) .
It is not possible to tell exactly what happened to the extractive
trade economy of the upper Zutiua area after 1957. The agent continued
representing the SPI until 1962 when the commissioner retired and new
functionaries replaced them. It is most certain that other store owners
took over the space which had been pratically monopolized by the former
agent. This occurred at least for the trade of skins, which still
exists to this day albeit in a much smaller degree, but the market for
forest products seemed to have disappeared by the middle 1960s, according
to my informants. .
Difficulties in transporting agricultural products in bulk made
the trade economy of that area enter into a period of depression. The
production of wild skins was the main source of cash income for the
area. Nuclear family production, therefore, became as important as the
extended family production, particularly on the fringes of this area
where there were Brazilian peasants and landowners. To earn some extra
cash several of these nuclear families entered into apadrinhagem rela-
tionship with local peasants. They hired themselves out as agricultural
laborers to farmer-landowners, and some families even moved into Brazilian
lands to work as squatters, tending, the cattle of the landowner, on the
basis of the sharing system of one calf out of every four.
But the great majority of the Tenetehara, and particularly those
functioning within the extended family unit continued to live on their
lands. Because of the depressed state of their trade economy as well
as the slow growth rate of the Grajau economy until 1970 or so, the
Tenetehara of this area remained the most conservative of all other
Tenetehara. In many villages the men hardly ever dressed in anything
more than some kind of a loin cloth and the women went around bare
breasted as during the nineteenth century. Bows and arrows continued
to be used more often than the muzzle loading guns. The necessities
without which they could not do were iron implements, some clothes
for a trip to the outside world, and salt. Muzzle loading guns, powder
and shot, kerosene, and crude soap, the three next most important
necessities of the Tenetehara of all areas, became harder to come by.
This situation was improved only after 1972 when the handicraft boom
In the Bacurizinho area, however, at the time that the upper
Zutiua Tenetehara were in an economic slump, they were becoming involved
with cattle raising. Around 1965, or 1966, two or three local cattle-
owners asked the Tenetehara to allow them to graze several dozen cattle
on their land and to take care of them for the usual calf-sharing price.
Perhaps as many as ten Tenetehara men were trusted with these cattle,
and at least five of them became rather successful at it. At one point
in the early 1970s, one man had some 40 cattle, another 30, and two
other about a dozen each. But at about that time FUNAI prohibited such
arrangements and by 1975 no one had more than two or three cattle,
about a total of 15 for a population of 840.
What happened to cattle raising was essentially the reverse of what
happened to the large production unit pattern on the upper Pindare River
in the 1940s: it led to the formation of nuclear family production on
an unprecedented scale. It is well known that cattle raising is labor
extensive. In that region of Maranhao cattle needs little caring for
beyond taking the herd back and forth from the home base to pasture
and occasionally to salt licks. The nuclear family production unit
caused similar types of tension as did the extended family in the upper
Pindar^ case. First, the cattle roamed about beyond the pasture areas
and invaded many garden plots of the Tenetehara. This problem was
partly solved by putting up fences around the gardens or by making
gardens in places farther away from the wandering range of the cattle.
Those who took the time to do so obviously succeeded in creating larger
production units than the cattle raisers and could have continued doing
so if the results of their agricultural production were satisfactory
compared to the results of cattle raising production. It seems that
at that time agricultural prices were in relative decline in relation
to prices of manufactured goods, with the result that this investment
in extra labor time did not result in the agriculturalists earning as
much as the cattle raisers. The latter were obviously getting more out
of their production and consequently were getting more manufactured goods
than the former. Moreover, they began to use beef (instead of game meat)
to promote the girls' initiation rites, and with the extra money from
selling a head of cattle they could hold very prestigious parties similar
to those of neighboring Brazilian peasants with an accordion, flute,, and
drum players, and dancing in couples.
By that time there were a few Tenetehara men who could play these
instruments so that this borrowed trait pei ie_ did not become a threat
■ to vi llage cohesion .
But the tensions between cattle raisers and agriculturalists took
their toll in such a community where equality of status is essential
for its continuation. In one case, one cattle raiser moved off to a
nearby area by himself; another tried to move all of his cattle to
another area but as a result of hoof-and-mouth disease all the cattle
died on the way out. It appears that in the majority of cases agricul-
turalists sabotaged the cattle raisers by several means, the most
conspicuous being outright slaughter of cattle that had invaded their
gardens. The cattle raisers themselves were aware of this tension and
the only way they could ease it was by progressively slaughtering or
selling their cattle to Brazilians; this way at least they could get
something out of their last heads of .cattle.
TENETEHARA ECONOMIC SYSTEM: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
In 1972, a new source of income became available to the Tenete-
hara, namely a handicraft cottage industry. In early 1972 when FUNAI
created ARTINDIA, a sort of public relations bureau in charge of promot
ing the value of Indian cultures by selling Indian handicraft. objects ,
many Indian tribes were encouraged to produce their saleable tradi-
tional handicraft objects in order for them to get some cash income.
ARTINDIA would buy them in bulk, paying the Indians at once and, as
it turned out, at good prices. The Brazilian public was eager for
"Indian art" and very willing to pay well. For this mass of consumers
bows and arrows, feather bonnets, necklaces, and rattle gourds seem to
have been the favorite Indian objects d'art . Particularly in demand
were goods from the Xingu tribes, the Ge tribes of Para and Maranhao,
and the beautiful feather work and iron-pointed arrows of the Urubu-
Tenetehara handicraft was very poor^ in the 1970s, but that
did not deter them from organizing handicraft production, and pouring
out more saleable "Indian art" than any other Brazilian tribe. Seed
necklaces and feather bonnets were turned out by the thousands, and on
Cf. Wagley and Galvao 1961 for a description of Tenetehara ar-
tifacts in the 1940s.
a smaller scale bows and arrows, rattle gourds, bamboo flutes, carved
wooden animals, wood clubs, wood harpoons, woven handbags, and skirts
made out of bamboo slivers and seeds. With the exception of bows and
arrows and rattle gourds, and the latter used to be the exclusive property
of shamans and ritual singers, none of these handicraft objects are
mentioned in Wagley and Galvao's book nor^, according to informants, are
they said to have been made before the handicraft boom. Indeed most
of these objects were imitations of the neighboring Ge peoples' artifacts,
and in most cases poor imitations indeed. Such Tenetehara Indian .
craft, therefore, sold for considerably less than the value of other
Indian tribes' artifacts, but the demand for Indian handicraft was so
large that the Tenetehara continued making their goods and selling
them, . . ,
The handicraft boom lasted from 1972 through 1974. With the
exception of the Tenetehara of the Pindare and Caru Indian Posts, all
the other areas participated heavily in this bonanza. The Tenetehara
of Bacurizinho who had had the previous experience of organizing the
lumber production were especially^ prominent and it is for this area
that this analysis will be made and generalized to the other areas.
When ARTINDIA placed its first order of Tenetehara handicraft,
a few families responded by making bows and arrows, rattle gourds, and
simple seed necklaces. These objects were received by the Indian Post
agent who air-mailed them to Sao Luts whence it was mailed to Brasilia.
Prices were paid at cr$10.00, cr$5.00, and cr$5.00, respectively. Soon
afterwards, local store owners in nearby towns, particularly those
located right on the bus route, began to buy Tenetehara handicraft to
sell to passing bus travellers. And at the same time Tenetehara individuals
began to take the initiative of selling their goods directly to these
travellers at better prices than through ARTINDIA or local store owners.
The demand continued to increase so that those Tenetehara men who had
a knack for organizing large-scale production did so by commissioning
their fellow villagers to make Indian objects payable as soon as the
final sale would be made. In 1973, not satisfied with local and regional
prices and frustrated by the slowness of the FUNAI Regional Office in
Sao Luis, these entrepreneurs began to make trips to large Brazilian
cities in order to get higher prices and bring back manufactured goods
with which to repay their fellow villages. Four such trips were made. ,
Two were to Brasilia, and the other two were to Rio and Brasilia by
way of several cities such as Terezina, Salvador, and smaller cities
on the way. All trips were made by groups of people varying from two
men to eight people (on one trip a boy and a woman allegedly went to
get special medical treatment in Brasilia).
Three of the trips were headed by Virgilio, who carried the largest
bulk of handicraft goods. With his extensive experience acquired during
the lumber boom and in organizing the extractive production of one or
two villages in the upper Zutiua area, Virgilio was now a man in his
early forties and had become a headman himself. He had a large family
(three unmarried daughters and four young married sons who lived with
him, as well as three little children), a very hard working wife (he
had abandoned his first wife in T955), and a network of relatives, all
of whom were producing for him. In addition, he extended his production
network to other distant relatives in such a way that they all came to
depend on him for the acquisition of manufactured goods. Whereas in
1971 he and his sons were earning some cash money by hiring themselves
out to a local peasant with medium-sized holdings, by 1973 he had set up
a trade store in the village of Bacurizinho. He no longer planted
gardens, and even discouraged his sons from doing any heavy manual
labor, including such simple tasks as getting firewood. One of his
sales trips brought him as much as cr$70,000.00 (about US $10,000 in
1973); the two other trips garnered cr$45,000.00 and cr$30,000.00.
On each trip he returned loaded with such goods as accordions, portable
radios, record players, guitars, wrist watches, and clothes, not to
mention the usual commodities such as kerosene, soap, gun powder and
shot, rubber thongs, canned foods as delicacies, and staple foods with
which to supply his rather wel 1 -assorted store.
When he arrived from one of these trips in GrajaJ, he would pay
his creditors in town, buy store goods, hire a pick-up truck, and go
to the village. As he approached the village he would begin to fire
firecrackers in the air to let everyone know of his return. As the
pick-up truck could not go all the way to the village but had to stop
about three miles away, when he reached that point there were already
some people awaiting him. He would then distribute more firecrackers
to some boys who would post themselves at intervals along the path to
the village and light the fire crackers as the man progressed toward
the vi llage.
When one of his sons got married Virgilio spent cr$7,000.00 (US
$1,000), on a wedding suit bought in Sao Luis, the hiring of two trucks
to take people back and forth to Bacurizinho and Grajau (where his son
was married in the church, an unprecedented event), and on the celebra-
tion party in the village which consisted of a dance played by a local
Tenetehara band with accordion , tambourine and drum. Much beef and
coffee was served but no alcoholic beverages were allowed by FUNAI in
the village. A less elaborate party was held on the occasion of his
daughter's initiation rite.
As in the case of Camirang on the upper Pindare" River of the 1940s,
Virgilio spent his profits on "conspicuous consumption." The differences
between the two men were first, that Virgilio never acquired the political
status of Camirang, basically because he was not the sole representative
of his village. Other unattached families continued to produce handi-
crafts and sell on their own, either directly to bus travellers, or to
local store owners and ARTINDIA. Some families even moved to Grajau
during certain periods where they practically lived off their handicraft
sales. Other men tried to organize large scale production, often success-
fully. In one case one man had five looms set up in his house to make
the cotton bands for the feather bonnets, and these looms were worked
by five women in a way that is reminiscent of the pre-capitalist cottage
industry. The women were not paid daily wages but according to the
quantityof bands each had produced at the time that the "master" was
going to sell his goods; in other words, they engaged in piece work.
Of course Tenetehara looms are very simply and easy to make, so that
the master's investment consisted primarily of the cotton thread which
he bought in bulk in Grajau and of the feathers which he bought from
Tenetehara and Brazilians alike.
The second difference between Camirang and Virgilio is that the
latter tried to invest his money in a store, something which he knew
could bring him more money. His store sold heavily on credit to both
his circle of relatives and other Tenetehara even from another village.
The prices he charged for food staples were essentially the same as those
in Grajau, but since he bought staples in bulk and sold in retail he
accrued some profit from these sales. But his major profit came from
the sale of portable radios (cr$700.00 a piece). At one point every
Tenetehara family in the villages of Bacurizinho and Ipu had at least
one. He sold these radios sometimes for cash but most often on credit
to be paid by handicraft goods at a price which was about half of what
he would get by selling them in the cities. In some cases when he
would buy a head of cattle for a celebration or for slaughter and retail
sale, he would allow the cattle owner credit in his store. He himself
could write Portuguese rather poorly but the accounts of his store were
written by one of his sons or a Brazilian man who was married to a
Tenetehara and lived in the village and whom he had hired as a clerk.
In the middle of 1974 the handicraft boom collapsed, apparently
due to market saturation. At that time ARTINDIA became reluctant to
buy any more Tenetehara handicraft, with the result that Virgilio's
store immediately closed for he no longer had money to buy trade goods
and he likewise lost all of his credit in Grajau. In fact, it turned
out that he had been buying all the radios, accordions, record players,
and other goods on credit from a store in Sao Lufs on the basis of large
down payments. Now he could not even pay up his own debts. He .
apparently had made credit purchases also in Brasilia, and ultimately
these stores came to charge FUNAI for this man's debts. FUNAI of course
did not feel responsible for this matter but nevertheless if offered
to buy a load of handicrafts with which it would pay Virgilio's creditors.
Virgilio hesitated, however, to ask the Tenetehara handicraft producers
to viprk for him, since he was sure that FUNAI would use the funds to
pay his debts, and therefore he would not have been able to pay the
producers themselves. Furthermore, since Virgilio never felt threatened
by a lawsuit since as an Indian he is legally a minor, he seemed to
have decided not to take any action concerning his debts.
Meanwhile, in the village his debtors were also at a standstill
for they too could not pay their debts to Virgilio for lack of cash.
Those who still had credit with him either from handicraft goods or
from the sale of a cow or a pig were getting nervous but unable to do
anything about it. In both cases nothing was ever done since Tenetehara
etiquette does not permit a man to charge another in his presence for
some past favor let alone for money debts.
On my arrival at Bacurizinho in late July, 1975, the situation
remained unresolved. There was much whispered gossip and wondering
from everyone, but no backbiting. People still seemed to think that
the handicraft demand would pick up, particuarly since FUNAI in Sao
Lufs would periodically announce that they were ready to get a new
shipment. Eventually in September, they bought a shipment worth
about cr$32,000.00 from two villages of which about cr$20,000.00
(about US $2,300) were from Bacurizinho. Since Virgilio owed a store
in Sao Luis cr$7,500.00 and cr$5,000.00 in Brasilia, he received only
about cr$7,000.00. Since much of the handicraft shipment had been
entrusted and taken to Sao Luis by Virgilio and another important man
who was also his step son-in-law, when they returned they told everyone
that FUNAI had not accepted their goods or that it had accepted only
about cr$l,500.00 worth. He explained this to an audience of several
Tenetehara who had come to Grajau to receive their share, despite the
fact that Virgilio and his companion were wearing brand new panama
hats, and one of them a set of new dentures. They had stayed in Sao
Luis for about a month.
Since I left Bacurizinho soon afterwards I cannot tell what happened
subsequently. But a conversation with one of his Tenetehara creditors
revealed that, although he was highly suspicious of that explanation, he
felt that nothing could be done about it. He vouched that he would never
again trust Virgilio, and he himself was on the way to a city in the
state of Para on the Belgm-Brasilia Highway to try to sell some handi-
crafts that his family and other Tenetehara had made.
Throughout 1975 most Tenetehara continued making handicraft either
for sale to ARTINDIA, for sale to local stores, in cities not too far
away, or occasionally to tourists passing through, Grajau. But prices
had decreased drastically and the Tenetehara realized that the market
had been flooded. An unsuspecting tourist would occasionally buy a
necklace for cr$5.00 or cr$10.00, but to post oneself at a bus stop
or the gas station was too time consuming. Local stores were buying
a necklace at best for cr$1.00 and a feather bonnet for cr$2.00, and
most of them were giving no more than cr$,50 and cr$1.00 and even as
low as cr$.20 and cr$.50.
The Tenetehara of the two Indian Posts in Barra do Corda were in
a similar situation as those of Bacurizinho: they were still trying
to sell their handicrafts to. tourists and local store owners. But
those of the upper Zutiua area whose nearest town, Amarante, was not
connected to the Grajau-Barra do Corda Highway had almost given up on
handicraft production by the middle of 1975. And on the Pindare Indian
Post the handicraft boom had touched them only in the early months when
ARTINDIA had commissioned them for bows and arrows and necklaces. Their
craftsmanship of necklaces was of even lesser quality than that of the
upper Zutiua, Bacurizinho, and Barra do Corda Indian Posts, because
they had not had the influence of Timbira handicraft.
At the same time that the handicraft boom occurred there arose a
large demand from the Brazilian cities for marijuana. As with the local
peasants, the Tenetehara are traditional consumers of cannabis indicus ,
and they became one of the main sources of supply to the itinerant buyers.
Many Tenetehara, who until then only planted for private consumption,
took advantage of this opportunity and planted more plants than they
normally needed. Prices in 1973-74 were ranging from cr$80.00 to cr$100.00
per kilo, but the Tenetehara generally traded marijuana for radios, hand
and shot guns, clothes, and other manufactured goods. But by mid-1975
everyone was very freightened of being caught even with a single budding
plant among his herbs, for the Federal Police was waging a fierce crack-
down on this trade. Villages near the highways were easy targets for
both traders and the Federal Police, and several Tenetehara were inter-
rogated and beaten for suspected dealings in marijuana. In one case
which occurred in late 1975 a Tenetehara man was taken to Barra do
Corda by the Federal Police who had been tipped off by a marijuana
buyer that he had sold him cr$2,000.00 worth of marijuana. Other Tene-
tehara later commented to me that this man, despite all the beating he
suffered, never, in characteristically Tenetehara fashion, confessed
his involvement in any sale of marijuana. On his release he returned
to the village, rented a pick-up truck to carry his belongings, and
moved to another village with his money.
All the Tenetehara areas were affected by the outside demand for
marijuana, but the Tenetehara of the upper Zutiua and Barra do Corda
areas were the ones who most profitted from it. Those of Bacurizinho
were particularly involved in the handicraft industry, whereas on the
lower Pindar^ the large Brazilian peasant population had capitalized
on the marijuana trade before the Tenetehara.
/j Another source of cash which had appeared during the handicraft
boom (but was unrelated to it) was cash labor. Beginning in 1972 new
cattle ranchers had come into the region of Grajau-Barra do Corda-Amaronte
and bought fairly large tracts of land from the large landholders as
well as the small peasant landholdings . They had come from different
states of Brazil with capital and were planning to clear land for pasture
for their cattle. They needed labor and several Tenetehara responded
to this opportunity. An Indian might work either for a daily wage of
cr$15.00 (which remained unchanged from 1973 to mid-1975 when it increased
to cr$20.00), or for a set price of cr$600.00 for every 2 1/2 acres of
dry forest land that he cleared. These arrangements were not optional,
but rather one or the other was chosen by the employer, most often the
latter. In a few cases which I recorded, six men hired themselves out
to work on the basis of cr$600.00 per 2 1/2 acres of cleared land.
Since they had to travel to the place of work they took their families
along and fed them by buying on credit from the employer's store. In
five out of six cases they left their jobs in considerable debt to
the employer, one as much as cr$600.00. Only one man quit with a
positive balance of about cr$9,000.00, but allegedly he only received
cr$7,400.00. Throughout 1975 he tried to get the remainder of his
balance without success. FUNAI refused to do anything to compensate
the employer for those who left debts or to force the employer to pay '
up the exceptional Tenetehara who was underpaid. The basis of FUNAI 's
lack of action was that FUNAI had not granted the Tenetehara men
permission to work for this employer since such arrangements must be
made according to constitutional law. In another case (related earlier)
a group of ten Tenetehara had been lured by a labor recruiter and taken
to work on a very large ranch on the Tocantins River. As their wives
complained to FUNAI that they had not heard from their husbands for two
weeks, FUNAI, correctly suspecting that the Indians were being used as
"slave" labor (a known practice in the region), moved into the ranch
with the Federal Police and had the Indians released and transported
back to their vil lage.
Although it is unlikely that both the handicraft and the marijuana
trade economies will survive in the next two or three years, the demand
for hired labor by the forming of new cattle ranches will continue
until these ranches become established with pasture lands. All the
same the prospects for the Tenetehara to obtain a valuable source of
income, comparable to the handicraft and marijuana trade in 1972-1974,
are rather bleak. It seems very likely that the Tenetehara will have
to return to agricultural production as their main trade economy. Rice
and manioc flour were experiencing a production boom among the Maranhao
peasants, as their prices were rising at least in the same proportion
as the prices of other commodities. The Tenetehara were aware that the
recent trade economies in which they had involved themselves were no
longer bringing the returns which they had experienced in 1972-1974.
They were also aware of the lack of prospects in the future, as well
as of the damaging effects which these trade economies had had on their
agricultural production. During the handicraft boom a great number
of Tenetehara families had neglected planting gardens and without the
handicraft money 1975 had been a difficult year. Now the great majority
of nuclear families were clearing at least two acres of land, while a
few extended families were thinking of clearing up to ten acres in order
to plant half of it in rice. Two men were even trying to get a small
loan from the local bank to finance the labor expenses of rice planting
and harvesting, but no one town patron was willing to risk co-signing
the loans without the written guaranty of FUNAI.
In July, 1975, 17 Tenetehara (including one woman) were receiving
cr$l,130.00 per month (US $140.00) as employees of FUNAI. This sum of
money was about 2 1/2 times more than the regional monthly minimal
salary, hence even in urban terms a lower-middle class salary. Needless
to say, this money was spent on the purchase of luxury items as well
as of food staples, since none of these people had the time or felt
the need to plant gardens. By the time they received their salaries
at the end of the month most of it went to pay the town stores for the
bills they had run up during the month. In the two villages of
Bacurizinho and Ipu where there were six of these Tenetehara working
as bilingual teachers (monitores), their total annual incomes would come
up to about US $10,000.00. This considerable sum of money could be
invested in agriculture but it most likely would not be, because these
monitores were, with one exception, young married men with little social
prospects of becoming headmen of extended families. To invest in agri-
culture one needs labor power which, in Tenetehara society, can only
be procured through ties of kinship at the extended family level. Of
course the possibility that nuclear family production for an agricul-
tural surplus might arise with the potential for investment should not
be excluded. Nonetheless for such an event to take place the agricul-
tural demand must not only be at least steady, but the internal economic
relations of the Tenetehara will have to change. We shall now turn to
Tenetehara Internal Economy
The strong influence of the Tenetehara trade economy on their
internal economy has been noted several times throughout this disserta-
tion. We have seen how new resources are exploited, new technical norms
introduced, productivity increased, and how the production units change,
all due to the influence of the trade economy. This influence has also
been seen to affect the social division of labor, the rise of economic
alienation of labor both internally and externally, and the forms of
mode of production/distribution. In this section these factors relating
to production forces and production relations which constitute the Tene-
tehara mode of production will be analyzed in greater detail in regard
to the mechanisms of the internal economy of the Tenetehara of recent .
(1) Resources :
The Tenetehara exploit two kinds of ecological zones: the tropical
rain forest and the transitional forest. With the exception of a few
products such as copafba oil, jutaicica and jatoba" resins, and cumaru.
and babacu nuts, all other flora and fauna products are found equally
in both ecological zones. Of these exceptions, only babagu nuts and
jutaicica resin are presently used in the internal economy, the former
as a source of food, the latter as a cultural item in the preparation of
girls' initiation rites. In areas where jutaicica resin is missing it
is obtained through trade.
Most Tenetehara villages nowadays have fruit. trees planted near
their houses. Many of these fruit trees like mangoes, oranges, lemon,
and bananas are non-aboriginal whereas cashew, jack tree and papaya are
pre-Columbian domesticates. Mangoes, oranges, bananas, and papayas
are often sold to obtain cash. Otherwise these fruit trees provide a
reliable source of vitamins and minerals, thus minimizing the need for
collecting other such sources in the wild.
With the exception of rice and sugar cane, Tenetehara gardens,
contain the same aboriginal cultigens as in former times. Manioc,
processed as "wet flour" ( farinha d'agua ) and "sour" flour ( farinha
azeda) as well as Tapioca, are the basic source of carbohydrates. At
least one half of every two acre garden is planted with manioc. In
addition they plant several kinds of squash, beans, corn, sweet potatoes,
yams, watermelon, peanuts, and cotton. Rice is general ly , pi anted as a
cash crop, whereas sugar cane is planted in small quantities for internal
consumption. Peanuts are now rarely found in most Tenetehara villages,
whereas cotton is planted only as there is a need for new hammocks and
slings to carry babies.
Game meat and fish are the main sources of animal protein. Comm'unal
hunting occurs only when meat for the girls' initiation rites is needed.
Fishing is done by the nuclear family except on the lower Pindare area
where fishing by poison can be done. In the latter case extended family
units are organized for that. In addition, cattle and pigs are raised
for internal consumption as well as outside trade. Chickens are also
generally raised for outside trade but they can be consumed internally.
(2) Production Units :
Communal production units are nowadays formed generally for social
purposes, such as hunting for the girls' initiation rites and demarcating
Tenetehara lands. Collective hunting by the method of driving animals
to certain areas is still found in the rain forest zone, as is collective
fishing with poisin. However, the products of these activities are not
held communally. Moving a village from one location to another is done
by extended family units in the process of the splitting up of a village.
Communal decisions are made in regard to combating Brazilian encroachment,
as in the cases of land disputes as I have described in Chapter 1.
The change in predominance of extended family versus nuclear family,
and vice versa, has already been considered in detail in the chapter on
the trade economies. The predominance of one or the other of these
production units is articulated concomitantly in the internal economy.
It should also be said that whenever these two production units are found
together they are part of the domestic cycle of the Tenetehara socio-
economic structure. Extended family units are formed by the close
articulation of nuclear family units. The headman of an extended family
breaks down, either by the death of the headman or the influence of the
vicissitudes of the trade economy, the component nuclear families lose
close economic articulation. As a nuclear family begins to grow and
absorb new relatives, particularly sons-in-law, its senior male
member begins to take the position of a headman.
(3) Technical Norms : ' ' "
The method of planting continues to be that of si ash-and-burn . The
time for cutting and burning a forest patch varies slightly from one
ecological zone to another according to the variations in the beginning
of the rainy season. Generally, families begin to cut the forest in
August and finish it by November. Planting then takes place. Manioc
is the first cultigen to be planted, followed by rice, beans, and the
root plants, according to the growth rate of each plant. Corn and rice
are harvested around June-July and by September most of the other plants
also have been harvested. Manioc matures in six to twelve months, but
it can be left in the ground for continuing use for up to eighteen to
twenty months. The Tenetehara of the rain forest zone plant in soils
that are above the flood level of the rivers and which have good drainage.
The fallow periods of this soil ranges from five to eight years. The
Tenetehara of the transitional forest recognize four types of soil
according to the type of vegetation and the moisture retention:
ikaiweru , or brush (" carrasco " in Portuguese) and otororon , or savannah
are not amenable to cultivation; yka'akureru , or virgin forest, is con-
sidered good land for manioc and rice; and yapyru , or lowlands ( baixao
in Portuguese) is the best land because it retains moisture. The fallow
period of yka'akureru varies from between seven to ten years, but yapyru--
lands have a fallow period of about six years. In both cases the
fallow period is determined by the time it takes for secondary forest
to grow to a height of two to three meters. In the rain forest zone,
game is hunted by the method of stalking in the daytime during the
dry season. In the rainy season when game moves up to areas above flood
levels, hunting can be done by several men together as a communal
activity. However, the results of this activity are not shared communally
but belong to the persons who killed the animals (Wagley and Galvao 1949:
57). In the transitional forest zone, the latter method is not used.
Instead, game is stalked by individuals in the rainy season; and in the
dry season they are hunted by the method of espera whereby a man hangs
his hammock at night in a tree near a waterhole or a flowering tree and
waits for the tapirs, deer, wild pigs, agoutis, and birds to come by.
When there are plans for the elaboration of the girls' initiation rite
a group of men might go to areas where game is abundant for a couple
of weeks and the results of the hunt are turned over to those who are
preparing the rites. Such areas of abundance of game are exploited
only during the dry season. They are guarded jealously by the Tenetehara
from the intrusion of Brazilians. This is a conscious policy of game
preservation on the part of the Tenetehara. They call wild game "our
cattle." Muzzle-loading guns and shot guns are used much more often
than bows and arrows. The latter are still used mainly to shoot big
fish in shallow ponds. The Tenetehara also fish with poison in ponds
formed by the receding waters of the rivers, by hook and line, and by
small casting nets ( tarrafas ).
Gathering activities are restricted to the collecting of honey and
some wild fruits, as well as palm fronds for the production of basketry
and for house roofs. All Tenetehara villages are located at walking
distance (15 km at the most) from groves of palm trees. These can
be babagu, inaja , or buriti .
(4) Productivity :
In regard to the internal economy, its basic productivity is the
amount of goods produced needed to maintain the Tenetehara production
unit and the society in general. Surplus of productivity results from
the demands of the trade economy. The introduction of iron implements
increased the potential for an internal surplus, provided that the time,
spent on producing as well as the aboriginal type of production unit
remained the same. However, neither of these provisions are in operation
at the present time. In fact, the agricultural production of the Tene-
tehara often falls below the basic productivity level whenever there is
high demand from the non-agricultural trade economies. The lack of
fertilizers and other better methods of agricultural production leave
the Tenetehara in a position which prevents them from dedicating their
time to both agricultural and nonagricul tural activities without getting
their subsistence means in jeopardy.
("I) Internal Division of Labor :
In aboriginal times one of the objective reasons for the division
of labor in the nuclear family production unit was the need for politico-
military labor. The defense in such societies as the Tenetehara is the
exclusive province of men. As this activity began to lose its purpose
in the nineteenth century, coupled with the rise of the agricultural
trade economy, the men began to take on some of the tasks which had
been exclusively performed by women. The men continued to clear garden
plots as their exclusive realm of labor, but they now help the women in
the planting, harvesting, and even processing of foods. This is partic-
ularly the case for manioc and rice produced for trade. In addition, the
men collect fruits for both trade and internal consumption. And in
some nuclear families the women might even accompany their husbands on
the hunt. Both men and women fish by means of the hook and line as
well as poisoning, but only the men own and fish with casting nets.
The care of infants and children continues to be women's and young
siblings' activities as is the preparation of everyday meals..
(2) Social Division of Labor :
■ The only aboriginal specialist labor was that of the shaman. Shaman-
istic practices nowadays are performed by both men and women. Women
are rarely the main performers of a shamanistic cure, but they serve as
back-up in the singing during cures. In one case recorded in the village
of ipu there was a woman who was actually a main performer in such cures.
Shamanistic seances have changed considerably in some areas where the '
culture of rural Blacks is strong. In these areas, such as near Barra
do Corda and on the lower Pi ndare, the Tenetehara have adopted such
tracts as candles, sugar rum, drum playing, and Brazilian songs into .
their shamanistic practices. Elsewhere shamans work in the way reported
by Wagley and Galvao (1949:110-118) except that now women can be helpers
in the singing.
Shamans are well paid for their work if it is successful. In one
case a shaman was paid a burro worth about cr$500.00 for the successful
cure of a little girl. Shamans are feared for their capacity to do harm,
and consequently they are sometimes killed, when suspected of witchcraft.
^1"^"^"^'^ is not transmitted in any line of descent but is actually
acquired. The first sign that makes a person want to learn how to. become
a shaman comes through dreams or semi-conscious trances. This person
then decides to pursue his proclivity by learning shaman songs and curing
rituals. He may or may not have a teacher; in the latter case he
learns by observing other shamans. Although in times past (See Wagley
and Galvao 1949:30) shamans were often important headmen of extended
families, nowadays this office is in the hands of lesser men.
The trade economy brought forth the rise of headmen who became
representatives of several production units in relation to Brazilian
society. Their social status rose during times of economic boom but
they fell from such heights in times of stagnation. The cases of Camiran.
and Virgilio illustrate this phenomenon. The recent appearance of
bilingual teachers, or monitores, brought about the rise of intellectual
labor as opposed to manual labor. When a monitor is also a headman
in his own right or an important official leader (capitao) of a village,
his status increases and he takes on new perquisites of his double
office. In the case of Alberto, the monitor-capitao mentioned in
Chapters I and II, he became the spokesman of several villages of the
Bacurizinho Indian Post area. In his own village he was envied by many
of his fellow villagers because of his material possessions and his
contempt for shamanistic beliefs. The other monitores are all young '
men whose status has increased only as a function of their permanent
source of income, not particularly because of the nature of their labor.
(3) Economic Alienation of Labor :
Thi£factor is a function of the rise of trade economy. Labor is
alienated directly by the low wages paid the Tenetehara by the Brazilian
landowners. In this case, of course, the Tenetehara is in the same
situation as the Brazilian rural worker. Tenetehara labor is economically
alienated because of the small prices paid for its products by Brazilian
patrons. This also applies to the Brazilian peasants. In addition, labor
products are alienated also by Tenetehara headmen and entrepreneurs,
particularly during times of economic boom. Examples for that have been
given in the cases of Camirang and Virgilio. In these cases production
was organized by these men by pooling the labor power of their relatives.
Camirang's production unit was essentially within his extended family
(See Wagley and Galvao 1949:26-27), but Virgilio extended his production
unit to other distant relatives who otherwise did not belong within his
extended family. He was able to do that because the production of handi.
craft could be done in a complete fashion by each nuclear family. One
other individual, however, organized handicraft production in the model
of an assembly line, several people working at different parts of the
product. In all these cases the labor products of the members of these
production units were alienated by the organizers. They in turn would
sell these products and pay back the producers by distributing part of
the capital investment, expenses and profits. Taken at face value this
is essentially the economic behavior of an entrepreneur. However, in
all these cases, the procurement of profit was intended principally for
consumption. Virgilio invested part of his large profits in a trade
store with the intent of increasing his profits. However, the unstable
trade economic base on which. his profits rested and the egalitarian
ideology of Tenetehara society did not allow for the continuation of
this trade store. In short, the economic alienation of labor among the
Tenetehara is effected through the trade economy. It is defined as
the rise of the distinction between production units in that the labor
products of some of these units are not consumed or fully enjoyed by
them. Part of these labor products are in fact alienated from these
units and capitalized by another such unit. Thus, the rise of economic
alienation of labor marks an inchoate situation of non-egal itarianism.
(4) Forms of Distribution :
In a society whose predominant mechanism of distribution is
generalized reciprocity, one can speak of economic egal itarianism and
the conjunction of production units with consumption units. With the
rise of the trade economy and consequently of the economic alienation
of labor, generalized reciprocity gives way to negative reciprocity.
It is postulated here that such a change can be seen as a pattern,
indeed as a law of economic change among societies such as the Tenete-
hara. This is due to the fact that there are no mechanisms in the
internal economy of the Tenetehara to mediate between the value of two
different products to allow for the rise of balanced reciprocity. For
the Tenetehara individual the 'value of his labor products, say 200 kg
of manioc flour, might as well be equivalent to one muzzle-loading gun
or one radio. What actually brings about equivalency of different
commodities is the price mechanism of the external market. When this
process of becoming aware of price mechanisms takes place, negative
reciprocity can change to balanced reciprocity with the exchange of
products of equivalent prices through the medium of money. Relations
between Brazilian patrons and Tenetehara clients are interpreted here
as relations characterized by a progressive continuum from negative
to balanced reciprocity. If these relations reach the point of balanced
reciprocity, it means that in practice the basis of patron-cl ientship
is abolished. Transactions would then be effected solely through
exchange of equivalent price/values. Extension of credit would assume
a business-like character with official pledges of reimbursement and
deadlines which must be met; in other words, it becomes a capitalist
transaction. Capitalist credit systems of course are organized to
obtain profit at the cost of the debtor although they take the form of
balanced reciprocity as determined by the market. This distinction
between patron-client credit and capitalist credit can be phrased in
the following terms: patron-client credit takes the form of negative
reciprocity while allowing for balanced reciprocity, and capitalist
credit takes the form of balanced reciprocity while allowing for negative
In the internal economy of the Tenetehara with reference to its
production for trade, negative reciprocity is found in the organization
of production units in times of economic boom. People like Camirang
and Virgilio become patrons to their Tenetehara producers. In contrast '
to outside patron-client relations, however, Tenetehara patron-client-
ship allows for generalized, not balanced, reciprocity. This can be
seen in the way in which Virgilio's debtors never paid him when their
source of income was finished. One year after his store closed no one
felt an obligation to settle accounts with Virgilio nor did Virgilio
feel that he owed anything to anyone else.
Generalized reciprocity, therefore, remai^ns the predominant ideology
of the economic relations of the Tenetehara internal economy. This is
particularly so in the production for agricultural subsistence. Extended
family units still pool their labor to clear gardens in a single plot.
But the planting, weeding, and harvesting is done by nuclear families
and the products of this labor are consumed internally. Labor power may
be exchanged between nuclear family units which are not organized as
an extended family unit, and in this case balanced reciprocity is the
norm. Sometimes this balanced reciprocity is effected by letting. one
of the labor partners have usufruct to portions of the garden's product.
However, since there are no mechanisms of equivalence to determine the
value of one's labor power spent in someone else's garden in relation to
a certain portion of the garden's product, this relation can be called
generalized reciprocity. But, if parts of the gardens are planted for
trade, the equivalence of labor power and the share of the products is
determined before the laborer is actually asked to lend his labor power;
thus balanced reciprocity takes place.
Generalized reciprocity is the norm in the distrubtion of garden
and hunting products among nuclear families who view themselves as
closely related by ties. of kinship and friendship. Friendship is
defined here as a relationship of mutual liking and mutual support. It
is a relationship that must be constantly reinforced, and sharing through
generalized' reciprocity is the main means of reinforcement. Political
support is another means. The distribution of subsistence goods among
nuclear families which do not have such ties of friendship, even if they
are the closest of relatives, such as siblings, is effected through
balanced reciprocity. This obviously came about after the rise of trade
economy and the knowledge of the market price system. In this case
these goods are distributed or exchanged as equivalent according to
their prices as found in the markets of the nearby Brazilian towns.
Thus, for example, two kilos of venison might be exchanged for the
equivalent price of a certain quantity of sweet potatoes. Frequently,
however, a man might obtain two kilos of venison from another to be
paid for with the equivalent in sweet potatoes, but he might never pay
it. In this case the creditor might complain to other Tenetehara
but he should never charge his debtor to comply with their agreement.
Neither can the society in general, through social pressure and gossip,
ever force this compliance. What is clear here is a societal ideology
that still cannot bring itself to change from generalized to balanced
However, in effect, this change is taking place through a new kind
of economic behavior: whenever a Tenetehara obtains a potential source
of income, say he has a quarter of a wild pig he wants to sell, he
announces that product for sale at a price which is the retail price in
a Brazilian town. Many other Tenetehara come to look at the pork and
offer to buy on credit or at a lower price on the pledge of exchange
for another product. Sometimes these offers, looked at from the point
of view of rational market behavior, are quite fair. Instead, knowing
that he might in fact not get the exchange value of his pork because
of the ideology of generalized reciprocity, this man prefers to make the
trip to a Brazilian town (sometimes as much as 30, km away) where he
will sell his pork for cash at a price lower than the one he was asking
in his village because in the town he can obtain only the wholesale
rather than retail price for his pork. And in the town he might use
this cash to buy a certain amount of goods whose prices were less than
the price of other goods which the Tenetehara in his village was offering
to exchange for his pork. In other words, counting the cost of his trip
to the town, the expense of eating there, and the actual price which
he obtained for his product, he obviously seems to be acting irrationally
in terms of market behavior. This seems even more bizarre because this
man knew he was losing money by doing that. Nevertheless, in terms of
the risk which he had in selling on credit or exchanging his product on
credit for other products, he was acting rationally. As this kind of
economic behavior is quite regular among the Tenetehara, this can be
interpreted as an unconscious attempt on the part of Tenetehara society
to resolve a contradiction that exists between the ideology of generalized
reciprocity and the economic reality that demands balanced reciprocal
(5) Ethnic System :
Tenetehara villages have been generally self-sufficient. Trade
takes place between villages that lack certain goods necessary for its
survival. It has been postulated that in aboriginal times certain
villages traded stone axes for political alliance. In modern times
trade is done exclusively in economic terms. Bird feathers, jutaicica
resin, and sometimes tobacco and cotton may not be found in one village,
and so nuclear families have to obtain them from other nuclear families
in other villages. This trade is effected in the parameters of general-
ized/balanced reciprocity found in the internal economy of a village,
i.e. according to the presence or lack of friendship ties.
More importantly, economic articulation between villages can be
seen in the question of "village territory." Wagley (1942) states that
a Tenetehara man defined the boundary of the territory of his village
at the point where the sun. sets. On further inquiry the village terri-
tory was defined as the area which is actually exploited by the village.
This is of course a dynamic concept of territory, a function of the
activities of the village group. It reflects a situation in which
land was abundant, practically without boundaries, as was the situation '
of the Pindar^ in the early 1940s. Wagley and Galvao (1949:16-17) further
mention that if a Tenetehara from one village wanted to move to another
he would have to ask permission of the most important headman of his
new village before he could clear a garden of his own.
At present the Tenetehara, with the exception of those 1 iving on the
Gurupi reservation, do not have an overabundance of lands and they have
become very aware of territorial boundaries. These boundaries are most
clearly delimited in regard to the distinction between Tenetehara and
Brazilian lands. Practically every Tenetehara individual knows these
boundaries and the stories behind the demarcation of them. Inside Tene-
tehara reservation lands, villages have become more conscious of owner-
ship of a certain territory than they were in the 1940s. Every village
now claims, control of areas for agricultural production and areas for
communal hunting in the dry season. These , vi 1 1 age areas have been
established by traditional usufruct. When one village that has tradi-
tionally exploited certain areas splits up into two or more villages,
each of these new villages retains portions of these areas as their
control areas. This partition is done solely on the basis of previous
usufruct of the extended families which now form the new villages. Let
us say that village A splits into villages B and C and village B moves
to the north and village C to the south. If village C is composed of
certain families that traditionally hunted in an area to the north of
former village A, i.e., nearer village B than village C, village C
nevertheless will continue hunting in this area and with time will claim
it as its control area. This claim, however, rests on traditional use
not on an acknowledged land tenure system. A man may hunt in another
village's control area but he usually prefers to go with a relative of
this village, if only because the relative will know the best spots to
hunt. However, communal hunting groups should not hunt in another
village's area without the consent of the headman of that village.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century the Tenetehara economic
system has been a mixture of an economy oriented towards trade and an
economy oriented towards internal subsistence. The organization of
the trade economy has rested on the mode of production, or the organization
of the internal economy. This mode of production has been changing as
the relations of the trade economy change. The change in the Tenete-
hara mode of production, however, has not been one of total adaptation
to the trade economy and still contains many factors of aboriginal times.
These factors enter into contradiction with the changing reality of the
trade economy, thus making the Tenetehara economic system in general
appear to be irrational. But it is these very factors which mark the Tene-
tehara economic system, and by extension Tenetehara society, as distinct
and apart from the regional Brazilian economic system, thus its rationality.
In comparison with the economic relations of the regional Brazilian
peasantry, the Tenetehara economic relations of their trade economy are
essentially the same. Both the Tenetehara and the Brazilian peasant,
particularly the small independent peasant and the squatter peasant
living on someone's land, relate to the regional market controlled by
compradores-store owners and the big landowners through patron-cl ientship.
On the other hand, the mode of production of the Tenetehara differs sig-
nificantly from the mode of production of the Brazilian peasant. Although
the factors of resources, technical norms, and internal and social
division of labor are comparable, the factors of productivity, production
units, forms of distribution, and economic alienation of labor are
entirely different. What is important in these distinctions is that
the Tenetehara society and culture are an independent and egalitarian
entity, whereas the Brazilian peasants are socially and culturally part
Cf. Godelier 1972 for a full discussion on the internal ration-
ality of an economic system.
* ■ ■
• , ■ ■ . 268
of the regional Brazilian society. Thus both socio-economic and
cultural factors combine to keep the Tenetehara a society distinct
from Brazilian peasant society.
CHAPTER X ■
I began this dissertation by presenting some crucial aspects of
the situation of the Tenetehara Indians in relation to the Brazilian
society. Foremost among these is the question of land ownership, upon
which hinge the basic objective factors for Indian ethnic survival.
In the chapters on the ethnohistory of the Tenetehara it was seen
that the pattern of expropriation of Tenetehara lands, and of the lands
of other Indian groups, has been a continuing one since the French and
Portuguese colonists first came to Maranhao. However, the forms of this
expropriation have varied through history, according to the particular
modes of production of the colonial Portuguese and the Brazilian society
in Maranhao. Thus during the phases of slavery and serfdom, lands were
overabundant and therefore sufficient for both Brazilians and independent
Indian groups. What in fact constituted wealth from the viewpoint of
Brazilians was labor, particularly Indian labor, for the operation of
the sugar and tobacco plantations of the colonists. In the process of
procuring this labor, many Indian groups were enslaved or placed into
conditions of servitude, with the result that their modes of production
and ultimately their cultures were destroyed. The Tenetehara were spared
this pervasive onslaught because the majority of them lived in an area
with limited access to the economic center of colonial society.
By about the middle of the eighteenth century, the non-aggressive
Indians of Maranhao were declared free and therefore not subject to
slave parties or parties of reprisals of the so-called "just wars."
Aggressive Indian groups, such as the Ge Timbira groups, continued to
suffer organized attacks for purposes of displacement from their lands
and enslavement. Although this juridical freedom did not change the
character of dominance of the Brazilian society over the Indians, it
did change the form in which this dominance would be effected. Further-
more, with the increasing importation of African slaves to work the
plantations of rice and cotton, as well as cattle, the new export commodi-
ties of Maranhao, Indian labor became for the most part unnecessary to
the new mode of production of Brazilian society. Indian groups that
were not totally annihilated by the aggressive expansion of the Maranhao
economy entered into a contact relationship with Brazilians which I have
termed patron-clientship. This relationship was effected through trade
economies. The Indians, and particularly the Tenetehara, became engaged
in producing certain commodities which had both use-value and exchange-
value for the economy of the Brazilian societies. Agricultural products
and extractive goods were the principal commodities produced by the
Tenetehara for trade with the Brazilian patrons. In turn the Brazilians
provided the Tenetehara with manufactured goods, principally clothes,
guns, ammunition, salt, and kerosene, upon which the Tenetehara culture
became increasingly dependent.
The search for contact with a Brazilian market and Brazilian patrons
was the main reason for the expansionary movement of the Tenetehara in
the first half of the nineteenth century. From their aboriginal habitat
on the upper and middle Pindare River, the Tenetehara migrated westward
to the Gurupi River and beyond, and down river to the lower Pindare and
Grajau Rivers and thence up the Grajau to the upper-middle Grajau and
Mearim Rivers and the upper Zutiua River. This migration was made
possible because the various Ge Timbira groups that had up until then
inhabited these latter areas were suffering a fatal decrease in their
populations and their culture. By the last quarter of the nineteenth
century the Tenetehara had a population of about 6,000 people, possibly
the largest they ever attained in their history.
In the last years of the nineteenth century, the Tenetehara began
to lose control of some of their lands, as the Brazilian population of
Maranhao began to increase through immigration and began to exploit
newjands. The number of marriages between • Brazi 1 ians and Tenetehara
increased concomitantly, with the result that the Tenetehara population
decreased by at least fifty percent, as the newly wedded couple, their
offspring, and other relatives moved into the sphere of Brazilian lifeways
as peasants. In addition, this close contact brought forth the dissem-
ination of foreign diseases. In the Barra do Corda region, in 1901,
there occurred the infamous massacre of Alto Alegre perpetrated by the
Tenetehara on a colony of Brazilian peasants and Italian Capuchin friars.
The revenge that the Brazilians took against the Tenetehara caused an
additional loss of population for the Tenetehara of the region. On the
other hand, this caused the rise of Tenetehara ethnic self-consciousness
which resulted in a higher degree of cautious relations with the Brazil-
ians than had been the case previously. Whereas in other regions the
patron-client pattern of expropriation of Tenetehara lands continued,
in the Barra do Corda-GrajaQ region it was considerably curtailed by the
attitude of sel f-defensi veness of the Tenetehara. This is one of the main
reasons why the Tenetehara of this latter region have increased their
population by close to one hundred per cent throughout the last three
decades, while the Tenetehara population of the Pindare and Gurupi
regions have since decreased by ninety and sixty percent, respectively.
The mediation between the Tenetehara and Brazilian society through
patron-clientship, which was objectified through the trade economies,
has been extended into the twentieth century. But now the Brazilian
Indian Agency, the Servigo de Protegao aos Indies (SPI) which was created
in 1910, and the Fundagao Nacional do Indio (FUNAI) which replaced the
SPI at the end of 1967, stepped in to provide an official role in this
mediation. The purpose of the SPI/FUNAI was partly to protect the Indians
from the over-powering dominance of Brazilian patrons and partly to
bring about the incorporation of the Indians into Brazilian society.
This double, and somewhat contradictory, purpose cannot be said to have
been realized because of the paradoxical functions of the SPI/FUNAI
as mediator between the Indians' interest and the interests of the
Brazilian governmental policies of colonization. The extreme ineffi-
ciency of the body of administrators and the guidelines of Indian policy
of the SPI/FUNAI also contributed to this lack of success. Nevertheless,
as far as the Tenetehara are concerned, the SPI/FUNAI have played a
considerably valuable role in curtailing the extent of Brazilian expro-
priation of their lands. This conclusion, drawn from historical data,
is contrary to the thesis of Moreira Neto (1967) which states that the
mediating agency or actors of Brazilian-Indian relations have not
changed in content since the arrival of the Europeans in Brazil. The
historical pattern of land expropriation, of racism, and of ethnic
extinction to which Moreira Neto refers as indigenato , indeed holds true.
but the forms, contents, and the results of this pattern have changed.
Plus sa change, plus c'est la meme chose is not, in my view, the correct
maxim to represent the indigenato. I do believe that a somewhat optimistic
note can be inserted into the records of Brazilian-Indian relations at
least for the time of the creation of the SPI/FUNAI. Nonetheless, the
recent development of the capitalist mode of production in rural regions
of Brazil where there are Indian groups, poses a new set of problems,
the solution of which requires a more efficient and more Indian-oriented
set of guidelines on the part of FUNAI. It remains to be seen how FUNAI
will do that.
To analyze Brazilian-Indian relations only from the perspective
of the Brazilian mediation agencies and actors is a one-sided proposition.
The Indian groups have (and do) played an important role, if not in
determining, at least in shaping the character of this mediation. Every
Indian society, let it not be forgotten, is a self-conscious system with
interests of self-maintenance and self-reproduction. Although the
Indians realize the advantage of adopting some of the Brazilian cultural
traits and they even adopt other traits which are in the long run detri-
mental to the self-maintenance of their societies, such as the use of
clothes and the Brazilian style of housing, nevertheless they too realize
that the social conditions of their existence are superior in many ways
to the social conditions of the Brazilian peasants with whom they are
acquainted. Moreover, they are aware of certain aspects of the historical
processes of expansion of the Brazilian society, particularly those of
land expropriation, labor exploitation, and the position of landless
peasants to which they are ■ frequently relegated. All these factors
are part of the Indians', and particularly the Tenetehara ' s , knowledge
of their past, present, and future relative to the dominant Brazilian
society. Thus these factors constitute, along with the inherent need
of self-reproduction of any ethnic group, the set .of norms and positions
for that which Barth (1969) called "the formation of ethnic boundaries."
In an attempt to discern the most basic factor which has brought
about the continuing survival of the Tenetehara over a period of over
350 years of contact with Brazilian society, this dissertation focused
upon the analysis of the Tenetehara mode of production. This analysis
began with the reconstruction of the aboriginal mode of production of
the Tenetehara, and proceeded to account for the changes therein which
took place during the historical phases of the Tenetehara-Brazi 1 ian
contact relationship. It was seen that this mode of production
changed in some ways in order to produce for the type of trade economy
in question. Because this change was effected through a restructuring
of some of the factors of this mode of production, the former structure
was never completely destroyed. However, some factors, such as the
forms of distribution as well as the decline of communal production
seem to have changed irrevocably, making it unlikely that the modern
Tenetehara mode of production will ever again operate as in oboriginal
times. But more importantly, the ideology of egalitarianism, or in
other words, the social constraint of equal access to resources and
production goods, makes the Tenetehara mode of production not only
distinct from that of the Brazilian peasants, but also constitutes a
contraction to the structure of their trade economy. Recent developments
in this trade economy, such as the Indian handicraft boom and the concom-
itant rise of entrepreneurs to coordinate the production and sale of
the handicraft goods, have brought forth the potential for the emergence
of differentiation of politico-economic status. Such differentiation of
status, however, has not become institutionalized, both because of the
"boom-and-bust" nature of the trade economy itself, and because of the
social constraint of equal status. The latter stabilizing, or leveling
mechanism, has been operationalized here by the contradiction between
the mode of production of the internal economy and the unstable forms
of production of the trade economy.
In the final analysis, and returning to the exposition presented
in Chapters I and II on the modern Tenetehara face to face with Brazilian
society, the situation of the Tenetehara is one of institutional and
existential impasse. In this too, the Tenetehara situation is similar
to that of other Brazilian Indian groups. Recent crucial developments
in the socio-economic structure of the Brazilian rural society warrant
the reference to the Tenetehara situation as being on the threshold of
a new era.
Finally, we might ask the question: What lies ahead for the Tenete-
hara as an ethnic group. By phrasing the question on the future of the .
Tentehara in this manner, I am implicitly working under the assumption
that there is a distinct possibility that the Tenetehara will continue
to be an ethnic group in the future. This assumption contrasts with
earlier assumptions on the part of other anthropologists that the Tene-
tehara, and for that matter, all and every Brazilian Indian group, were
doomed to ethnic extinction. In the view of these anthropologists,
history and the inexorable march of Western civilization foreclosed any
other course. Darcy Ribeiro's (1970) records, showing a forty percent
extinction rate for the Brazilian Indian groups between 1900 and 1957,
and the extinction of other groups after 1957, are seen as undeniable
evidence for this historical trend. -
On the other hand, the Tenetehara Indians, and. many others, such
as the Potiguar of Paraiba State, the Fulnio of Pernambuco State (See
Pinto 1956), other tribes in the States of Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso,
all of which have had 200 or more years of contact with the Brazilian
society, have survived and have even increased in numbers (See Kietzman
1972). There is a need to study the conditions that favored the survival
of these Indian groups, to contrast them with the conditions that cause
ethnic extinction. I hope that this dissertation has been an empirical
and theoretical contribution to such a study.
It is not possible, of course, following the theoretical framework
of this study which takes the view that history is consciously made by
man although under conditions he is often unaware of (See Marx 1970), to
attempt to predict the future of the Tenetehara. For it has been
demonstrated here that this future must be, as was the past and is the
present, inextricably woven with the future of Brazil.
Nonetheless, it does seem to this author that given one basic
factor, that of the continuation of ownership of land by the Tenetehara,
one can make some predictions on how the Tenetehara ethnic group might
come to grips with their present and their future in relation to the
Brazilian society. These predictions will focus, as has this study, on
the Tenetehara mode of production, with the assumption that the changes
that occur in this basic structure will cause changes in the super-
structure of the Tenetehara ethnic group. A final assumption must be
made that the emergence of a capitalist mode of production in rural
Maranhao will displace the type of peasant mode of production hitherto
in existence in this state. This new mode of production entails the
presence of large to medium cattle ranches, medium to medium-small
farms of mixed agriculture (rice, manioc, and local vegetables) and
animal (cattle, pigs, and chicken) raising, and inevitably a large rural
proletariat, the socio-economic function of which will potentially cause
the instability of this mode of production.
At any rate, faced with these conditions, the Tenetehara mode of
production will be changed in order to bring about an increase in their
productivity and the emergence of a strong political leadership to
counteract the potential political threat of Brazilian capitalists and
rural proletariat. Although the situation of present-day peasants of
this state is structurally similar to that of the Tenetehara, the possi-
bility of an alliance between these two groups is rather small for the
The Tenetehara must increase their economic productivity because
they continuously need an economic surplus in order to obtain the basic
goods which they need. Moreover, the capitalist credit system for
agriculture demands accountability through surplus production. It is
likely, too, that the demand for these goods will continue to increase
and become more diversified as the possibility for their acquisition
increases. Furthermore, the increase must be effected because the
regional capitalist mode of production will be much more competitive
than that of the Brazilian peasants has been.
Agricultural production remains the only stable and viable economic
activity of the Tenetehara. To increase their agricultural productivity
the Tenetehara must develop or obtain new techniques for this purpose,
such as scientific knowledge of soils, fertilizers, and machinery. They
must also organize their production units more efficiently. There are
two possible ways in which this can be done. One is to make the nuclear
family production unit predominant in their mode of production. This
can only be done if these new techniques of production are available to
them. The consequences of such a development is not hard to imagine,
at least as a hypothetical model. There would be a diversification of
economic activity by individual nuclear families. Some of them would
also concentrate on raising animals, especially pigs and chickens. The
form of distribution would change to balanced reciprocity and economic
status would become congruent with political status. Leadership would
then rise from this conjunction, and if an ideology of egal itarianism
were to continue, it would be institutionalized through some kind of
democratic, majority rule decision-making.
There is however, a more likelihood that production would be
organized by the extended family unit in conjunction with the communal
production unit. Here the labor needed for making gardens, raising pigs
and chickens, and coordinating the distribution appear to need less of
some of the new techniques than in the former case. And certainly the
relatively small amount of these techniques available to the Tenetehara
could be more efficiently utilized. The forms of distribution would
be predominantly positive reciprocity except in the acquisition of manu-
factured goods from the outside in which case balanced reciprocity would
be the norm. Leadership, moreover, could continue to be provided by •
the more traditional, if not necessarily more stable, personae of the
senior headmen of the extended family unit. Political decision making
would proceed by consensus. Given the traditional instability of alliances
between extended families, which this dissertation only touched upon,
the need to make stability possible would arise. This author cannot
think of one such solution, but it would obviously come from the very
process of efficiently organizing this form of production.
In either the nuclear or the extended family solutions or a combin-
ation of the two, for increased productivity, there remains the possible
need to organize a form of land distribution. At the present time there
is enough land in all Tenetehara areas for their populations to utilize
land by a relatively unstructured land tenure system. However, with
population increase and potential high productivity of land through
new techniques, the need for land allocation to the production units
will become imperative. But, whether land plots will be allocated on
a permanent, yearly, or other periodic time basis, and whether they will
be allocated to communal use, nuclear or extended family units, there
should always be the stipulation that these lands are inalienable and
that ultimately ownership is lodged in the entire body of the Tenetehara
ethnic group. For such to become a legal possibility, of course, the
relationship between the Tenetehara and the Brazilian government,
through FUNAI or other agencies, must be one of autonomy as well as
based on the ideology and legality of ethnic and cultural plurality.
ALDEADO: An Indian living in aldeamentos , or in villages which were
under the control of the colonial administration.
ALDEAMENTO: Concentration of Indian groups in a village (aldeia) or
villages under the jurisdiction of a colonial missionary.
ALDEIA: An Indian village.
ALMECEGA: A large tree ( Protium icicariba ) from which a resin is
ALQUEIRE: A unit of weight equivalent to about 30 kg,
ALTO ALEGRE: A colony of Brazilians and Tenetehara created by the
Capuchin Friars of Lombardy in 1895. It was destroyed
by the Tenetehara in 1901.
ANACONDA: In Portuguese, jibgia ( Constrictor constrictor ).
APADRINHAGEM: The relationship of patronage which a Brazilian extends
to a Tenetehara regardless of whether or not there is a
religious sanction to it. It entails a great deal of
dependency on the part of the Tenetehara.
ARROBA: Unit of weight of about 15 kg or 32 pounds.
ARTINDIA: An agency created by FUNAI to promote Indian handicrafts and
BABACU: A palm tree ( Orbygnia speciosa ) whose nuts are used for food
and for the manufacture of cooking oil.
BAIXADA MARANHENSE: The area of Northern Maranhao characterized by
swampy fields, where the rivers Itapecuru, Monim,
Mearim, Grajad, and Pindard are drained.
BANDEIRAS: Expeditions organized by private individuals to search for
precious stones and Indian slaves.
BUMBA-MEU-BOI : A Brazilian folk drama in which a papier mache ox is
one of the leading characters.
BURITI: A palm tree ( Mauri ti a vinifera ) used for its fruits and fronds.
CABOCLO: Generic term applied to the Brazilian peasant. In Maranhao
this term is applied to the Indians by the Brazilians.
CANELLA: An Indian group of the Ge linguistic family and the Timbira
sub-family. They live in southcentral Maranhao and are
sub-divided into two groups: The Cannel la-Ramkokamekra and
CAPITAO: Captain. Term used for a Tenetehara headman who has been
appointed by the Brazilian authorities (FUNAI, SPI, or colonial
agencies) as leader of his village.
CAPIVARA: The largest South American rodent ( Hydrochoerus hydrochoeris ) .
CEDRO: A large hardwood tree ( Cedrella sp. ) used for lumber. Not to
be confused with the true cedar tree.
COLONY: A system created by the provincial government in the nineteenth
century to bring in immigrants to colonize and develop a particul
area. Nowadays colonies are set up by the federal government
through several agencies of development, notably SUDENE (Super-
intendencia para o Desenvol vimento de Nordeste, or Agency for
the Development of the Brazilian Northeast) and SUDAM (Super-
int§ndencia para o Desenvol vimento da Amazonia, or Agency for
the Development of the Amazonia).
COMPRADOR: Entrepreuneur from a rural town who buys and sells to local
peasants and Indians. Usually also owns a trade store in a
A large tree ( Copaifera Langsdorff i ) from which a fine
oil is obtained.
The Brazilian currency since 1942. It replaced the
rgis and the rate of cr$1.00 for 1$000 r^is.
CUMARU: A large tree ( Coumarouna odorata Aubl or Dipterix odorata Wild)
whose fruits (nuts) are used for the manufacture of perfumes.
In French, "fgve tonka."
DEER: In Portuguese, veado . Two main species are found in the forest:
veado mateiro ( Mazama americana ) and veado catingueiro ( Mazama
simplicicornis ) .
Expeditions organized by colonial missionaries (princi^
pally Jesuits) to bring Indian groups to aldeamentos
located near colonial centers.
A system created in, 1845 to promote the integration of
Indian groups into the Brazilian society. The general
directory was located in the provincial capital while
the local directories took charge of Indian villages.
It lasted until the end of the Brazilian empire in
ENTRADAS: Expeditions organized and sanctioned by the colonial adminis-
tration to explore the hinterlands and obtain Indian slaves.
ESPERA: Literally "a wait." A technique used by both Brazilians and
Tenetehara to hunt game.
EXPANSION FRONTIERS: In Portuguese, frentes de expansao . Term coined
by Darcy Ribeiro to mean frontiers of rural Brazil
which are in contact with Indian groups.
FEDERAL POLICE: In Portuguese, Policia Federal . A federal and state
organ of police control with military powers.
FUNAI: Acronym for Fundaeao Nacional do Indio , or National Foundation
for the Indian. The Brazilian federal organ in charge of Indian
affairs. It was created in 1967 to replace the SPI.
GAVIAO(OES): An Indian group of the Timbira sub-family presently
located in southwest Maranhao near the town of Montes Altos.
GAMELLA: Indian group possibly of Ge linguistic affiliation that until
the early twentieth century lived on the Baixada Maranhense .
GUAJA: A Tupi group of hunters and gatherers living between the upper
Pindarg and the Gurupi Rivers.
GUAJAJARA: Name applied by the Brazilians to the Tenetehara living in
'. Maranhao. See Tembe.
GUARIMA: A tree ( Ischnosiphon aruma ) from whose bark baskets are made. '
HECTARE: An area measurement equivalent to 2 1/2 acres or 10,000 square
HONEY FEAST: A Tenetehara social ritual celebrated in the dry season.
After enough honey is collected and hung in gourds in a
house, men and women dance and sing around it for two or
three days. Other villages are invited and ritually wel-
INAJA: A palm tree ( Maximiliane sp. ) used principally for its fronds.
INDIAN POSTS: The smallest and most direct administrative unit in
charge of Indian affairs. It is located in or near an
Indian village. There are twelve such units under the
■ FUNAI Regional Offices in Maranhao, eight of which serve
INDIAN INSTITUTE: A boarding school created by the Capuchin Friars in
Barra do Corda to missionize the local Indians
(Tenetehara and Timbira groups).
JACU: A bird the size of a small chicken ( Penelope sp. ) .
JACUNTINGA: A bird ( Pipile jacutinga Spix) smaller than the jacu.
JAGUAR: In Portuguese, onga pintada ( Panthera onga ).
JATOBA: A large tree ( Hymenoea courbaril ) from which a resin is obtained,
JUST WAR: Juridical term used in colonial times for the war perpetrated
^ on Indian groups that were in conflict with the Brazilian
JUTAICICA: A resin apparently obtained from the jatobS tree.
KAINGANG: Indian group of the Ge linguistic stock living in the states
of Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo, Parang, and Rio Grande do Sul.
Also known as Xokleng.
In the Tenetehara language, a "white man" ("white woman" is
karaiw kuz^ ). A Black man is called £§r|na.
LINGUA GERAL: Lingua franca , or a trade language created by Jesuit
missionaries in the sixteenth century from the Tupi
language spoken by the Tupinamba Indians of the Brazil-
ian coast. It was used in the aldeamentos to teach the
Gospel to Indian groups.
LUGAR(ES): Indian villages with fewer than 150 people that become part
of the colonial jurisdiction after 1755. See also vila .
MANIOC: Portuguese, mandioca ( Manihot utilissima ) . Generic term for
various kinds of edible roots which form the staple food of
Indians and rural Brazilians.
MARIJUANA: A bush tree ( Cannabis indicus ) whose leaves and flowers are
smoked as an intoxicant.
MATA DE TRANSICAO OR MATA SECA: Transitional forest characterized by
the presence of mixed forest and
MONITOR(ES): Indian bilingual teacher. '
MUNICIPIO: County. The majority of the Tenetehara live in the munici-
pios of Amarante, Barra do Corda, GrajaCi, MongSo, and Pindar^-
OCELOT: In Portuguese, maracajg or jaguatirica ( Jaguarius pardalis ).
PAU-BREU: Probably the same as almgcega .
PECCARY: In Portuguese, queixada ( Tayassu pecari ). Peccaries run in
large herds of between 20 to upwards of 100 animals.
PELUDO: A wild cat, probably Pel is Herpailurus yaguarondi Lac.
REGIONAL OFFICES: The administrative unit of FUNAI located in areas
where there are Indian groups. FUNAI has nine Regional
Offices in the country, the one in Maranhao being the
RELATOrIOS: Reports. In the nineteenth century the presidents of the
provinces and the directors of the directory system wrote
yearly relatorios on the situation of the Indians. The docu-
ments of the SPI are also spoken of as such.
SUB-REGIONAL OFFICE: An administrative unit of FUNAI located in a town
to supervise several Indian Posts.
REIS (1$000 = one thousand reis): The Brazilian currency until 1942
when it became cr$1.00,
SPI: Acronym for Servigo de Protegao aos Indios , or Indian Protection
Service. It was created in 1910 to protect and promote the inte-
gration of the Brazilian Indians into the Brazi 1 ian .society. In
1967 it was replaced by FUNAI.
TAPIR: In Portuguese, anta ( Tapirus terrestris ), the largest South
American mammal . .
TEJU: An iguana like lizard ( Tupinambis teguixim ) whose skin is marketable.
TEMBE: Name applied by Brazilians to the Tenetehara living in Para State.
TIMBIRA: Indian groups that form a sub-family of the Ge linguistic family.
Formerly they lived in both forest and savannah environments
but most of the forest Timbira have become extinct since the
late nineteenth century. Timbira groups living in Maranhao
include the Canella^ Gavioes, and Krikati. Those living in
Para are the Apinaye, the Western Gavioes, and the Kraho.
TUPI: Generic term used for Indian groups who speak languages of the
Tupi linguistic family. Included in it are the Tenetehara, Guaja
Amanjos, Tupinamba, and Urubu-Kaapor ..
URUBU-KAAPOR: A Tupi Indian group presently living in an area between
the rivers Turiagu and Gurupi .
VILA: Township in colonial times. Many Indian villages with more than
150 people became vilas after 1755.
WILD PIG: In Portuguese, caititu ( Tayassu angulatus ) . Wild pigs run
in small herds of from six to twenty animals.
XAVANTE: Indian group of the Ge linguistic family living in the state
of Mato Grosso.
XINGU: An Indian area located on the upper Xingu River; also an Indian
XOKLENG: See Kaingang.
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M§rcio Pereira Gomes was born on November 10, 1950, in Currais
Novos, State of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. He received his primary
and secondary education in Currais Novos and Natal, and graduated in
1969 from North Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon.
In 1970, Mr. Gomes attended classes at the Federal University of
Rio Grande do Norte and at the School of Sociology and Political Science,
in Natal, Brazil. In the same year he transferred to the University of
Oregon in Eugene, where he received hi,s Bachelor of Arts degree in
Anthropology, in 1973. A year later he took a Master of Arts degree
in Latin American Studies from Tulane University in New Orleans,
Mr. Gomes has been a graduate student in Anthropology at the
Univerity of Florida since the fall of 1974.
He is married to Ann Elizabeth Baldwin-Gomes and they have a
son, Gabriel Thomas.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Charles Wagley, Chairman
Graduate Research Professor of
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Phi losophy.
Maxine L. Margolis
Associate Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Paul L . Doughty
Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department
of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate
Council, and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dean, Graduate School